Russia may try to find weak links with MPs during the NATO debate, the expert warns

Russia may try to find weak links with MPs during the NATO debate, the expert warns

Deputies may be intimidated or pressured by Russia when the debate on Finland’s possible NATO membership begins in Parliament next week.

Jukka SavolainenThe head of Hybrid CoE’s Vulnerability and Resilience Unit told Yle that Russia is expected – but not certain – to seek to influence the debate.

Hybrid CoE, or European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, is an international network of hybrid threat experts in Helsinki.

Savolainen said he hoped for an open discussion on NATO membership, but noted that unnecessary delays or difficulties in the process would affect Russia’s hands.

"I believe that parliamentarians who are in close contact with, and under the influence of, Russia, for example, can try to prolong or complicate the process," Savolainen said and added that it is a matter "the conscience of each representative."

However, he also noted that reversing the direction of public opinion in Finland – which has changed dramatically towards NATO membership since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February – will not be easy. Any attempt to influence the debate may even have the opposite effect, he added, only confirming the desire of Finns to join the alliance.

The government is ready to react

The Prime Minister’s Office has prepared for the possibility of hybrid threats or attempts to influence public debate in Finland in the coming months, says the Agency’s Director of Security. Juha Pallaspuro.

However, he did not want to comment on provisions that could be a place to counter attempts to influence the NATO debate, which is due to begin in parliament next week following the government’s security policy report last Wednesday.

"Depending on the situation or potential threat or cyber attack, we will take appropriate and appropriate action. We are ready to" Pallaspuro said, adding that on Easter weekend, there will be staff on duty from which MPs can ask for help if needed.

He also noted that some threats or messages containing hate speech have been sent to individual ministers in recent weeks, but no more than normal. A small number of such cases are reported to the police each year.

Russia has been stirring the debate “for years”

According to the cyber security expert, the range of influence tactics that Russia could use is wide Catharina Candolinbut not necessarily anything new, as Russia has tried to influence and confuse the debate over NATO membership "for years".

Candolin, who previously worked in the Defense Forces and NATO Headquarters, is currently an expert in cyber security in the financial sector.

He urged the authorities to consider in advance how Finland could react in the event of a large-scale cyber attack and to prepare for it.

Russia may also try to influence MPs through public opinion, Candolin added, for example, by spreading false information or inciting fear.

"Russia has been trying to confuse NATO talks for years. NATO has been despised, its activities are being talked about and Finland is threatened that if Finland joins NATO, Russia may react militarily. This is also evident now," he said, referring to misleading images on social media recently that Russia is moving munitions closer to the Finnish border.

The denial-of-service attacks (DoS) on the websites of the Finnish Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs last week were also examples of attempts to influence and even intimidate, Candolin said.

"It should be noted that MPs are probably well aware of Finland’s security environment. They are also ready to be influenced by such companies" he added, but agreed with Jukka Savolainen that such tactics are unlikely to significantly change perceptions of NATO membership.

Source: The Nordic Page

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