Announcement

Join ASD and the European Centre of Excellence on Hybrid Threats (CoE) for a virtual discussion on how to address the information threats facing Europe with CoE Director Teija Tiilikainen, ASD Director Laura Thornton, and ASD Senior Fellow Bret Schafer on Thursday, October 14 at 9:00 a.m. EDT / 3:00 p.m. CEST. Register here.

Our Take

Foreign actors such as Russia, China, and Iran fuel domestic coronavirus disinformation to exacerbate societal divisions and sow distrust, Director Laura Thornton writes in The Hill

The Pandora Papers expose how the U.S. financial system supports international corruption. The policy response, too, must be made in America, Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph argues in Just Security. He explains how U.S. lawmakers can regulate professional enablers of corruption on C-SPAN.

The AUKUS agreement demonstrates the need for the United States and Europe to strengthen the transatlantic alliance to effectively compete against authoritarian regimes, Research Assistant Nathan Kohlenberg writes in an ASD blog post.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian officials and state media focused on three main topics last week:

  • European gas crisis: Russian diplomats and state-controlled media used surging gas prices in Europe to argue that Moscow’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline could stabilize the gas market.  
  • Facebook outage: Kremlin-backed media highlighted critiques of Facebook while the social media platform struggled to get back online after an hours-long crash.
  •  Czech elections: Ahead of the Czech elections, Russian state-funded outlets framed the incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Babis as corrupt and unable to handle the pandemic or the economy. Babis narrowly lost the election. 

Chinese diplomats and state media focused on the following topics:

  • Taiwan: Chinese officials and state-funded outlets amplified Chinese President Xi Jinping’s warning that China’s “complete reunification” with Taiwan would soon be achieved.
  • Xinjiang: Chinese accounts monitored on Hamilton 2.0 showcased “dance battles” and “children playing” in Xinjiang to counter accusations of forced labor in the region.
  • U.S. diplomatic meeting: Beijing’s diplomats and state media positively framed talks between U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, as a candid meeting and an opportunity to reset relations. 

Iranian officials and state media focused on three main topics:

  • Mosque attack in Afghanistan: Iranian leaders condemned the IS-K attack on a Shia mosque in Kunduz, Afghanistan, while President Ebrahim Raisi blamed the United States for “back[ing] and plann[ing]” the Islamic State’s growth in Afghanistan.
  • Visit to Moscow: State-backed media widely covered Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian’s visit with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
  • Trip to Lebanon: State-backed media also highlighted Amir-Abdollahian’s trip to Lebanon, where he met with civilian leaders and the head of Hezbollah shortly after Iran delivered fuel to the country in violation of sanctions.   

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

Russia pushes for Nord Stream 2 clearance as European gas prices surge: Russia’s deputy prime minister said the certification of the controversial Nord Stream 2 undersea gas pipeline could stabilize Europe’s rocketing gas prices, stoking suspicions that Russia is manipulating gas markets to ensure the project’s quick approval. ASD Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina told the Dispatch, “Europe’s reliance on Russian gas puts the continent in a fundamentally precarious position. Through gas supplies, Russia controls whether industry can produce, whether households are able to pay their utility bills. And Russia presents Nord Stream 2, and buying even more Russian gas, as the only way out. But who is to say that in two or five years, that gas won’t become prohibitively expensive or be cut off? Russia will continue to cause economic and political hardship in Europe.”

Microsoft: Russia responsible for majority of cyberattacks: Russia accounted for 58 percent of state-sponsored cyberattacks that Microsoft observed over the past year, the tech company said in a new report. Moscow’s hackers are also increasingly targeting government agencies, and their attacks are increasingly successful, Microsoft found. ASD Cybersecurity Fellow Maurice Turner told the Dispatch, “These attackers appear to be emboldened, not deterred, by the current state of the U.S. cybersecurity strategy. And they are not alone­—more countries are following Russia’s example by investing heavily in their cyber capabilities. It is time for the United States and its allies to consider moving beyond unconfirmed clandestine retaliation and failed diplomatic efforts as responses to these attacks.”

CIA shifts focus toward China and emerging technologies: On October 7, CIA Director William Burns announced that the CIA will establish the China Mission Center and the Transnational Technology Mission Center as part of an agency-wide reorganization to devote more resources to better compete with China and tackle emerging national security challenges. ASD China Analyst Bryce Barros broke down the implications of the shift to the Dispatch: “These new CIA mission centers, the State Department’s reorganization, and other specialized appointments are signals that the Biden administration is not only taking the national security threat posed by China seriously, but also non-traditional threats like economic security, emerging technologies, global health, and climate change. Overall, this is a welcomed sign that the U.S. government is working to develop a true ‘whole-of-government’ response to the issues at hand.”

In Case You Missed It 

  • A bipartisan group of legislators introduced the ENABLERS Act, which would require the Treasury Department to create rules for groups of professionals who can facilitate the transfer of dirty money in the United States. 
  • Former president Donald Trump repeated false claims that the 2020 election was stolen at a weekend rally alongside influential national Republicans. 
  • A controversial court ruling that gives Poland’s constitution primacy over some EU laws has entered into effect, raising concerns that it undermines the EU’s legal foundation. 
  • Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry A. Muratov were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to bolster democracy and freedom of the press in the face of rising disinformation and authoritarianism. 
  • U.S. remote-control manufacturer Universal Electronics reached a deal with the Chinese government to employ more than 400 Uyghur workers as part of a worker transfer program some rights groups have described as “forced labor.”
  • A U.S. and a Russian candidate will compete to lead the International Telecommunication Union, the UN agency that sets global telecommunications standards. 

ASD in the News

Cybersecurity 202: New Hampshire showed how to audit an election properly, The Washington Post. Comments from Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine

Lawmakers and regulators around the world take action in the wake of Pandora Papers, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Comments from Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph 

Lawmakers call for crackdown on financial ‘enablers’ after Pandora Papers revelations, The Washington Post. Comments from Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph 

Lawmakers, inspired by “Pandora Papers,” to push new anti-corruption bill, POLITICO. Comments from Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph

Dismantling offshore secrecy, The World. Interview with Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph

Financial exposé reveals secrets of state politicians, public officials and celebrities, KCBS Radio. Interview with Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph

A recipe for election chaos, The Washington Post. Written by Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine

Chinese State-Backed Disinformation on Covid-19 Origins Dominates Search Engine Results, China Digital Times. Covers ASD’s  “Deep in the Data Void” study

Kristine Berzina Discusses High Gas Prices in Europe and Gazprom, BBC Newshour. Interview with Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina 

Curbing Enablers: A Transatlantic Response to Illicit Finance, RUSI. Virtual event with Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph

Eastern European Digital Symposium on Civil Resistance, The Georgian Strategic Analysis Center. Virtual event with Director Laura Thornton

China demands information on whether US submarine collision “caused a nuclear leak,” Washington Examiner. Comments from ASD Co-Director Zack Cooper

How much will AUKUS change Australia?, BRINK News. Interview with Co-Director Zack Cooper

Quote of the Week

“Global corruption is an existential threat to democracy.” 

  • Congressional Anti-Corruption Advisor Paul Massaro remarked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on October 6, 2021.
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.