Denmark, Sweden team up to counter Russian ‘fake news’

Denmark, Sweden team up to counter Russian ‘fake news’
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Denmark and Sweden are teaming up to fight Russian cyberattacks and propaganda as they look to deepen cooperation between their militaries. 

The defense ministers of both countries condemned Russian "fake news" as a danger to their countries and pledged to increase their work in combatting Moscow’s “hybrid warfare,” according to a translation of a joint statement they released ahead of a meeting in Stockholm on Thursday.

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Russia’s efforts to spread disinformation have been a point of focus in light of the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election using cyberattacks and disinformation. 

“Russia has acted on a number of occasions,” Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist and Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said. “Military equipment and action is the most obvious, but also the so-called hybrid warfare, which includes various forms of cyber attacks, disinformation and false news that can create uncertainty in society. 

“When we cannot clearly distinguish false news and disinformation from what is true and true, we become increasingly unsafe,” the defense chiefs said. “We have both been exposed to different forms and therefore we want to better defend our society in this area. Here we will increase our cooperation.” 

Experts say Moscow has long engaged in such operations, particularly in Europe. Russia is also widely believed to have spread disinformation related to the French presidential election earlier this year. 

The defense ministers specifically mentioned “disinformation” being spread about Sweden’s Aurora 17 defense exercise, which is set to take place in September. The U.S., Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Baltic states have all been invited to participate in the military drills.

The joint statement from Denmark and Sweden comes as Russia gears up for military exercises with Belarus in mid-September amid rising tension over NATO's presence in the Baltic region. Denmark is a member of NATO, while Sweden is not, though Stockholm cooperates with the alliance in security operations. 

“As the security situation in our immediate area is deteriorating as a result of Russia's rehabilitation, defense cooperation is also becoming the focus,” the defense ministers said. “We are convinced that cooperation between our countries can help maintain stability and freedom in the Baltic Sea area.” 

The issue of Moscow’s behavior in the Baltic region came up at a bilateral meeting between President Trump and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö earlier this week, during which Trump declined to single out Russia as a “security threat” but insisted that the U.S. is “very protective” of the Baltic region. 

“I would consider many countries threats but these are all threats that we’ll be able to handle if we have to,” Trump told reporters when asked about escalating tensions in the region. “Hopefully, we won’t have to handle them, but if we do, we will handle them.”