Breaking News -- European Union
|Fake Threats Lead to Real Military Budget Hikes in Sweden
Of late, US hawks have been trying to convince the world that Russia tampered with the US presidential election using cyberattacks. In Sweden, where Russophobia has become part and parcel of the political parlance, this message has struck a note of sympathy.
During the annual national conference People and Defense, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven painted a morbid picture of an increasingly dark security situation in the world, highlighting nuclear threats, cyber threats and military threats, venturing that the upcoming Swedish election may be exposed to the same unsolicited influence that the US had allegedly experienced last fall. Although Löfven did not mention Russia specifically, the message was rendered crystal clear by allusions to the US election, where Hillary Clinton's painful loss is still being attributed to Russian "interference."
Stefan Löfven, who previously voiced his total support for Hillary Clinton, stated that the American election campaign was obviously influenced by data theft and fake news.
At a subsequent press conference, Stefan Löfven was asked how Sweden would react if Russia tried to influence the outcome of the Swedish election. It seems that the Swedish public has taken fancy of the idea of seeing "Moscow's hand" every time things are not going the expected way.
This delusion is reinstated through competent bodies. In a recent report by Sweden's National Defense Radio Establishment (FRA), Russia was identified as the main culprit behind the disinformation campaign and the dissemination of fake news. According to FRA, "foreign powers" performed over 100,000 cyberattacks against Sweden last year alone, Swedish national broadcaster SVT reported. According to Stefan Löfven, Sweden needs a "digital rearmament" to reduce vulnerability and raise the awareness of misinformation. Information security is therefore only a part of the national security strategy Löfven and the Swedish government announced on Sunday.
Even though Löfven summarized the Russian development as "provocation," "disinformation" and "military aggression," he acknowledged the need for a closer dialogue to reduce tensions.
After decades of disarmament, Swedish politicians have now made a U-turn and re-assessed developments abroad. Both left-wing and right-wing parties agreed that the security situation has deteriorated. Today, the discussion is instead focused on how much extra funding should be allocated to the Swedish defense.
The recent "wish list" by the Swedish Armed Forces alone is estimated at 400 billion SEK (over $44bln), Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reported in December.
Germany Hunts For Huge Neo-Nazi Underground Movement
Angela Merkel’s virtually absent migration policy is bearing fruit as Germans turn toward far-right movements and weaponise themselves, intending to take control of their homeland with their own hands, German media has warned.
During 2016, some 450 arrest warrants were issued in Germany in connection to far-right extremism, reported Deutsche Welle (DW).
The number of violent crimes perpetrated against asylum seekers increased five-fold in 2015, compared to the previous year, DW claimed. Various smaller far-right groups have been forced underground and are posing the beginnings of an organized force, seeking weapons to solve the problems they claim Berlin refuses to address.
According to the report, the official number far-right members was some 23,000 at the end of 2016. Reports claim that those who incline toward far-right extremism are establishing channels to acquire weapons.
DW pointed to a website called "Migrantenschreck" (German for a fear of migrants), which is, ironically, registered in Russia. The website belongs to Mario Rönsch, a German far-right activist currently living in Hungary.
The website allows Germans to purchase crossbows and non-lethal rubber-bullet weapons. Hungarian law forbids the export of such weapons to Germany. The website uses dark humor to peddle its products, according to DW. One description goes as follows: "An incredible 130-joule muzzle velocity speaks for itself, guaranteeing the successful use of this product."
According to Matthias Quent, a Jena-based researcher into right-wing extremism, a threshold of public anger has been reached, and social-media users are beyond simply expressing their displeasure. In Quent's words, "the discourse is incredibly uninhibited." The researcher acknowledges that it is the Merkel's unwillingness to tackle the problem that is driving some people to imagine violence.
As Russia and the US-led coalition push Daesh out of Syria and Iraq, terror attacks in Europe could increase, similar to that of Berlin's Breitscheidplatz, where a truck was driven into a Christmas market.
Angry citizens feeling helpless can easily take extreme measures, favoring extreme policies. Germany must mitigate its organized far-right political force before Merkel, or her successor, can assure the safety and stability of all.
Berlin mulls ‘no deportation’ decree for rejected asylum seekers attacked by far-right
Germany’s federal state of Berlin is mulling a special “decree” to halt or drop a deportation of rejected asylum seekers if they have been subjected to far-right violence, the state’s interior minister confirmed.
In an interview to Germany’s Tagesspiegel, Berlin Interior Minister Andreas Geisel said such refugees need “double protection.”
The plan would be “a strong political signal to all those who think ‘who wants to expel refugees from the country should attack them’,” Geisel said.
“Here I say ‘No’. Whoever is subjected to far-right violence [enjoys] double protection from us and will not be deported,” Geisel said. Berlin authorities are now checking whether a special “decree” is needed to implement the proposal.
In certain cases (such as far-right abuse), Berlin may already drop deportation of a rejected refugee on the basis of existing laws and rulings on asylum seekers, yet there is no special decree on that. Berlin is the latest German state to mull such a plan after the neighboring federal state of Brandenburg did so late last year.
Back then, Brandenburg’s authorities issued a decree to the federal states’ Foreign Office allowing rejected asylum seekers, who were attacked on the “racist grounds” to stay in Germany until at least the investigations against the perpetrators are completed. In certain cases, the refugee victims can be granted a residence permit as “compensation.”
The plan should raise “public interest” on the matter and also “make clear to the perpetrators” that their attacks would in fact “achieve the opposite,” Tagesspiegel writes citing officials. However, authorities noted though that the potential ruling won’t apply to rejected asylum seekers with a criminal record in Germany.
According to police figures obtained by the Potsdamer Neuste Nachrichten, the number of violent far-right attacks in Brandenburg has increased by 20 percent over the past year, following a similar trend in 2015.
A total of 921 attacks on refugee facilities were reported in 2016 across Germany, the country’s Federal Criminal Police (BKA) estimated in a report, according to the Die Welt daily.
Nearly 860 of the assaults had a suspected far-right background, officials say. Among others, the figure includes 66 arson attacks, 211 cases of hate speech and 371 cases of property damage, the paper said.
“This figure is frighteningly high,” Eva Hoegl, the Social Democrats’ (SPD) deputy parliamentary group leader and domestic security expert, told Die Welt.
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