Our Take

There are ten values-based principles that can help transatlantic democracies develop common frameworks for understanding and addressing manipulated information, ASD Program Manager and Fellow Nad’a Kovalčíková and Globsec’s Dominika Hajdu and Miroslava Sawiris argue in a new post.

Russian state-backed media are promoting divisive and influential narratives ahead of Germany’s upcoming elections. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina lays out the top five findings from our German Elections Dashboard in an ASD blog post.

The United States and other democracies should make it a strategic and national security priority to protect dissidents, dual-nationals, and other members of resident diaspora communities from coercion and outright murder by authoritarian governments, Research Assistant Nathan Kohlenberg explains in an ASD blog post.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Last week, Russian diplomats criticized the “hostile” stance towards Russia that was taken in the new U.S.-German deal on Nord Stream 2. State media also produced articles citing online comments posted to German newspaper articles as evidence that Germans were “outraged” about the agreement. Meanwhile, coronavirus vaccine coverage emphasized protests against vaccine passports, health passes, and mandatory vaccinations in Europe, fitting with larger state media narratives decrying government overreach and social media “censorship” of coronavirus misinformation. Finally, Russian diplomats celebrated successful performances by Russian athletes at the Tokyo Olympics, while the Russian embassy in Japan used the occasion to “call attention” to the Kuril Islands territorial dispute between the two countries. RT also used the Olympics to inflame divisions in the United States, suggesting that “lefty students” refuse to cheer for Team USA because they “hate America.”

Last week, Chinese officials and state media focused on covering the severe flooding in Henan Province, highlighting the competent response from authorities and the heroism of the Chinese people in the face of disaster. The flooding was also used to emphasize China’s global friendships, particularly with Russia and Pakistan. Chinese diplomats and state media were united last week in their angry reaction to the coordinated accusation by multiple democratic countries that Beijing’s Ministry of State Security was behind a global hacking campaign. Diplomats and state media outlets also continued to promote Fort Detrick conspiracy narratives, calling for an investigation into the facility. Finally, China’s state-media apparatus went after Reuters for allegedly selecting “ugly” photos of Chinese Olympic athletes while presenting effortless “white westerners.”

On the Iran dashboard, Press TV ran several stories alleging that the United States plans to stay in Iraq indefinitely and reported on the Taliban’s proclamation that only U.S. diplomats can stay in Afghanistan. Press TV also amplified the Nicaraguan government’s condemnation of U.S. involvement in Latin America. In domestic coverage, Iranian officials and state media shared sympathy with those suffering from a severe drought and water mismanagement in the province of Khuzestan. Many Tehran-linked Twitter accounts also celebrated Iran’s Olympic gold medal in Men’s 10m Air Pistol. In coverage of the United States, Press TV reported on U.S. struggles with racism and the crime surge affecting the country.

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

U.S. and Chinese diplomats hold contentious meeting: On Monday, a high-level meeting between U.S. and Chinese diplomats ended with little indication that the two countries were able to meaningfully address points of disagreement. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other officials in the Chinese city of Tianjin, as the two powers seek to prevent competition from turning into conflict. Before the talks ended, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying that the two countries were “in a stalemate.” Chinese diplomats presented Sherman with a series of demands, including that Washington lift sanctions on Chinese officials, stop restricting the activities of Chinese businesses, and stay out of China’s internal affairs. Sherman pressed Beijing on its crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang, and its malicious behavior in cyberspace, among other things. ASD Head of External Affairs Rachael Dean Wilson has argued that China’s assertive posturing undermines its effort to make the international community more amenable to its interests.

United States and Germany reach deal on Nord Stream 2 pipeline: Last Wednesday, the United States and Germany reached an agreement allowing for the completion of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, under which Washington dropped its opposition to the pipeline and Berlin pledged to retaliate against Moscow if the Kremlin weaponized its energy assets. The pipeline is already 98% complete and will enable Russian gas to flow to Europe without passing through Ukraine and Poland, denying those countries transit fees and, according to critics, increasing Central and Eastern Europe’s vulnerability to Russian energy coercion. Berlin committed to use “all available leverage” to help Ukraine extend its gas transit agreement with Russia under the new U.S.-German deal. Germany and the United States will also aim to build a $1 billion investment program for Ukraine’s energy security, with Berlin providing an initial $175 million donation. Additionally, Germany will increase its engagement with the Three Seas Initiative to strengthen energy resilience and infrastructure connectivity in Central and Eastern Europe. Lawmakers in the United States and Germany have been critical of the agreement. ASD Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina argued that critics of the deal should focus their frustration on Germany’s pursuit of Russian gas rather than the United States’ decision not to impose penalties on Nord Stream 2.

Biden administration and Congress push for cybersecurity measures: Last week, the Transportation Security Administration issued new cybersecurity requirements for owners and operators of critical pipelines in an effort to mitigate ransomware attacks. These security directives were followed by a joint cybersecurity advisory—released by the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)—that exposed a Chinese state-sponsored cyber campaign that targeted U.S. oil and natural gas pipelines between 2011 and 2013. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill that would require federal agencies, government contractors, and other entities considered critical to national security to report cybersecurity incidents to CISA within 24 hours. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), the Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also announced a bipartisan investigation into the role cryptocurrencies play in incentivizing cybercriminals to launch ransomware attacks. ASD Research Assistant Joseph Bodnar argued that the investigation could be a big step in making ransomware less profitable for cybercriminals and making U.S. critical infrastructure more secure.

In Case You Missed It

  • The European Commission announced a package of anti-money laundering legislative proposals, including a rule that would make cryptocurrency transfers more traceable.
  • France’s national cybersecurity agency said that Chinese state-backed hackers are exploiting routers to target French organizations.
  • An Israeli commission examining whether the NSO Group’s spyware was used by its customers to target activists and journalists will consider recommending changes to the country’s technology export regulations.
  • Hong Kong police charged two editors and two editorial writers from the shuttered pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily with conspiring to collude with foreign governments.
  • Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei hired longtime Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta as part of the company’s effort to expand its U.S. operations.
  • Private marketing firms are increasingly being hired to carry out disinformation operations, according to a New York Times analysis.
  • China imposed sanctions against seven individuals, including former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in retaliation to U.S. sanctions on Chinese officials over Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong.

ASD in the News

Quote of the Week

“It’s not a given which set of values will prevail in the 21st century, but it is incumbent upon [the United States and Europe] as friends and longtime partners to continue to work together, not just on the transatlantic relationship but now on the transpacific relationship and how we bring those two partnerships together.”

– Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) said on July 20 at a House Foreign Affairs hearing.

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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.