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We should follow Sweden in combatting foreign interference in our democratic proceedings.

by Ewan Wilson 9 months ago in cybersecurity

Here's why...

We should follow Sweden in combatting foreign interference in our democratic proceedings.
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Since the Cold War, it has become notably evident that Russian interference over democratic proceedings has increased. During my course in Government & Politics A-Level, I have taken a particular interest in the argument over whether there is a democratic deficit within the European Union. A key idea for this, would be that as Russia has increasingly interfered within democratic elections of European states, how is it possible to unify the European Union when elections themselves are not fully democratic? Such a question pushed me forward to read more about this topic, where I became fascinated by Russian espionage attempts to undermine democratic proceedings. I consider this to be one of the leading global issues we have, and this has become exacerbated by the fact that it is a threat that is continuously increasing. However, I believe that recent tactics used by Sweden should act as an example to ensure a comprehensive approach to combatting foreign interference in democracy.

Europe has faced interference for years — longer than the United States. The 1919 Bolshevik Revolution saw an end to traditional Russian tsarist rule which would later form into the Communist Party of the Soviet Union — better known as the USSR. Communist International or Comintern (1919 to 1943) principally acted to unite communist parties and instigate a Marxist revolution. The later Cominform and Comecon organisations established under Stalin also demonstrated the ideological expansionist tendencies that we still see presently today. More recently, however, we have seen in the media that a “Kremlin-friendly presidential candidate” had lost to Macron in the 2017 French general election.[1] This article from the Washington Post not only highlighted Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election but referenced that European experts believe that the “best antidote to Russian influence … is to make it visible”.[2] I am determined to highlight that this belief is one that western democracies should work together internationally to determine and expose foreign interference over our democratic proceedings.

To understand such a threat, we must consolidate the knowledge surrounding recent Russian interference within nation members of the European Union. The EU’s East Stratton Task Force has 14 employees working alongside hundreds of volunteer scholars, journalists and researches, all tasked with discovering false and misleading information surrounding democratic and political proceedings. This information becomes accessed into 18 different languages into a weekly digest. While one can, therefore consider a ‘hands-on’ approach is in effect, one could also question as to why Russian activities are primarily political and are increasingly reducing public confidence within democratic organisations. According to Sky News, a recent 2020 study has ascertained that “Germany has become a key target for Russian interference and influence, putting Europes largest economy on the frontline of a new Cold War”.[3] The article even expanded the argument suggesting how President Trump’s poor relationship with Chancellor Merkel only exaggerated Berlin’s exposure to potential foreign influence. It would also seem that because of Russia’s increased interference, the political far-right and left have also gained more support this past year. I firmly believe that such a compelling case highlights the global issue that we are facing.

Nonetheless, we can not take the recent efforts in Sweden lightly. A vital concept of a democratic society is pluralism. In my opinion, a democratic society is a pluralist society. While there is government, there should also be other institutions that sustain the fundamental right in a democracy — the peoples’ voice to govern the state. Before their 2018 election, Sweden created a comprehensive strategy aimed to highlight the threat and drew upon the consequences and learnings of recent targeted elections, most notably the United States’ 2016 Presidential Election and the United Kingdom’s 2016 EU Referendum. The Brookings Institution highlighted that Sweden developed a “whole-of-society defense strategy that includes its media and citizens”.[4] The Prime Minister used the media to assert that foreign interference would not be tolerated and used devolved institutions to identify and combat such an influence. Further enhancements of media literacy efforts also aimed to broaden the populations with “goals of increasing citizens’ resilience to disinformation, propaganda and hate speech online”.[5]

From the findings by the Brookings Institute, I act in agreement with their analysis of combating foreign interference in democracies. I believe that we should universally follow Sweden’s use of taking advantage over their pluralist society to fight and protect democracy — more specifically in European Union member states to decrease the potential of a democratic deficit. We can then aim to reduce the threat of Russian interference over our democratic proceedings.

[1] Priest, D. And Birnbaum, M. (2017). Europe Has Been Working to Expose Russian Meddling for Years. Washington Post. [online] 25 Jun. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/europe-has-been-working-to-expose-russian-meddling-for-years/2017/06/25/e42dcece-4a09-11e7-9669-250d0b15f83b_story.html?Utm_term=.642c59ee55b6

[2] Ibid

[3] Sky News (2020). Germany “New Target for Chinese and Russian Interference”, Report Warns. [online] Sky News. Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/germany-new-target-for-chinese-and-russian-interference-report-warns-12038188 [Accessed 25 Oct. 2020].

[4] Taylor, M. (2019). Combating Disinformation and Foreign Interference in Democracies: Lessons from Europe. [online] Brookings. Available at: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2019/07/31/combating-disinformation-and-foreign-interference-in-democracies-lessons-from-europe/.

[5] Ibid

cybersecurity

Ewan Wilson

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