Danish PM sees ‘no need to restore relations’ with France and Germany over spying

Denmark has "good dialogue" with its European allies and "no need to repair ties" with France and Germany, its prime minister said Wednesday following revelations that the US used Danish cables to spy on European leaders.

Danish PM sees 'no need to restore relations' with France and Germany over spying
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen made her comments at the closing debate of parliament. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

In her first remarks on the subject since the revelations emerged on Sunday, Mette Frederiksen refused to address the claims directly.

But as a general rule, “there should not be any systematic surveillance of allies”, she told reporters.

In an investigative report on Sunday, Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) and other European media outlets said the US National Security Agency (NSA) had eavesdropped on Danish underwater internet cables from 2012 to 2014.

They spied on top politicians in France, Germany, Norway and Sweden, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Reports of allies spying on each other have surfaced ever since the Snowden affair in 2013, and after these latest revelations Paris, Berlin and other European capitals on Monday demanded answers from Denmark.


Frederiksen played down the damage done to Denmark’s relations with its allies.

“We have a good dialogue,” she said. “I don’t think it’s correct to say that there’s a need to repair relations with France or Germany. We have an ongoing dialogue, which includes the field of intelligence,” she said.

According to DR, the NSA got access to text messages, telephone calls and internet traffic including searches, chats and messaging services — including those of Germany’s Merkel, then-foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and then-opposition leader Peer Steinbruck.

It remains unclear whether Denmark knew at the time that the US was using the cables to spy on Denmark’s neighbours. Washington has yet to comment publicly on the matter.

DR’s revelations are based on a classified, internal report written by a working group at Denmark’s military intelligence unit FE.

The report, submitted to FE management in May 2015, was commissioned by FE after the Snowden affair came to light — which suggests Denmark may not have been aware the US was using its cables to spy on its neighbours.

Five years later, in August 2020, several top FE directors were removed from their posts, a move DR said was linked to the US spying.

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Germany arrests Russian scientist for spying for Moscow

German police arrested a Russian scientist working at an unidentified university, accusing him of spying for Moscow, prosecutors said on Monday, in a case that risks further inflaming bilateral tensions.

Germany arrests Russian scientist for spying for Moscow
Vladimir Putin. Photo: dpa/AP | Patrick Semansky

Federal prosecutors said in a statement that the suspect, identified only as Ilnur N., had been taken into custody on Friday on suspicion of “working for a Russian secret service since early October 2020 at the latest”.

Ilnur N. was employed until the time of his arrest as a research assistant for a natural sciences and technology department at the unnamed German university.

German investigators believe he met at least three times with a member of Russian intelligence between October 2020 and this month. On two occasions he allegedly “passed on information from the university’s domain”.

He is suspected of accepting cash in exchange for his services.

German authorities searched his home and workplace in the course of the arrest.

The suspect appeared before a judge on Saturday who remanded him in custody.

‘Completely unacceptable’

Neither the German nor the Russian government made any immediate comment on the case.

However Moscow is at loggerheads with a number of Western capitals after a Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s borders and a series of espionage scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.

Italy this month said it had created a national cybersecurity agency following warnings by Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Europe needed to
protect itself from Russian “interference”. 

The move came after an Italian navy captain was caught red-handed by police while selling confidential military documents leaked from his computer to a Russian embassy official.


The leaders of nine eastern European nations last month condemned what they termed Russian “aggressive acts” citing operations in Ukraine and “sabotage” allegedly targeted at the Czech Republic.

Several central and eastern European countries have expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with Prague but Russia has branded accusations of its involvement as “absurd” and responded with tit-for-tat expulsions.

The latest espionage case also comes at a time of highly strained relations between Russia and Germany on a number of fronts including the ongoing detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who received treatment in Berlin after a near-fatal poisoning.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has moreover worked to maintain a sanctions regime over Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the scene of ongoing fighting between pro-Russia separatists and local forces.

And Germany has repeatedly accused Russia of cyberattacks on its soil.

The most high-profile incident blamed on Russian hackers to date was a cyberattack in 2015 that completely paralysed the computer network of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, forcing the entire institution offline for days while it was fixed.

German prosecutors in February filed espionage charges against a German man suspected of having passed the floor plans of parliament to Russian secret services in 2017.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas last week said Germany was expecting to be the target of Russian disinformation in the run-up to its general election in September, calling it “completely unacceptable”.

Russia denies being behind such activities.

Despite international criticism, Berlin has forged ahead with plans to finish the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, set to double natural gas supplies from Russia to Germany.