According to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany is currently the focus of spies and saboteurs. “Today, we estimate the level of espionage against Germany to be at least as high as it was during the Cold War – if not significantly higher,” said the President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang, on Thursday at a symposium in Berlin organized by his authority.

It is to be expected that “in a world of open arms dealings and drastic sanctions, the inhibition threshold for espionage, sabotage and illegitimate influence will continue to fall,” warns the head of the domestic intelligence service. The indicators for a new systemic competition between democracies and authoritarian states are unmistakable.

In Germany, the Russian leadership uses “a wide range of influencers, including intelligence service employees, think tanks and journalists.”

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) said: “The threat to our security from the new war in Europe is real.” This applies to espionage activities and cyber attacks as well as to “influence campaigns by foreign powers that are intended to destabilize our democracy through propaganda, lies and targeted disinformation”. .

The security authorities keep observing attempts by foreign actors to influence public opinion and public officials and elected officials through propaganda and the establishment of contacts. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, described by the Russian state media as a “special operation”, has given this a new relevance.

During the corona pandemic, Russia and China in particular spread disinformation and propaganda in Germany, the minister summed up. Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has also been trying to solidify the narrative of an alleged “Russophobia” in the West – also with the aim of influencing the Russian-speaking population in Germany. Faeser announced that she wanted to use the G7 presidency to focus on the issue of disinformation.

When it comes to disinformation, it is important to identify who first spread the wrong information. Among those who spread such fake news are many who are at least controlled, if not paid for, by Russia.

Where false information “also substantially damages Germany’s interests”, a correction must be made quickly. As an example, Haldenwang cited the false news spread online that three Ukrainians had killed a 16-year-old from Russia in the Ruhr area.

Shortly thereafter, the police announced on their website that there had been no fatality.

Even if the activities and number of participants in the Corona protests have declined sharply, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution takes the phenomenon area “delegitimization of the state relevant to the protection of the constitution” very seriously, which was set up in April 2021. Because the anti-state attitude of many protagonists is the actual core of their motivation, who, when in doubt, simply look for a new shell, new content.

The former judge at the Federal Constitutional Court, Udo Di Fabio, warns the participants of the symposium for the protection of the constitution that populism could easily “turn into an autocratic hostility to the system”.