Our Take

Last week, President Biden hosted a virtual Summit for Democracy with 110 governments, during which he called on leaders to make commitments to bolster democracy before an in-person summit in 2022. ASD experts weigh in and explain whether Biden’s summit was successful, what could have been better, and how the international community responded.

Summit for Democracy organizers only invited country leaders, leaving out activists, opposition leaders, and other non-state actors and making the process less-than-democratic, ASD Director Laura Thornton writes in The Hill. She discussed the summit and the state of global democracy on C-SPAN and DW News

Local jurisdictions should switch their websites to a .gov domain to ensure voters can find authoritative sources of election information, Maurice Turner writes on ASD’s Interference Matters blog.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media last week focused on three topics: 

  • Ukraine: Russian propagandists followed developments around the conflict in Ukraine—putting a positive spin on the Biden-Putin meeting, arguing Kiev is abusing human rights, demanding NATO make security guarantees, and denouncing the G7’s threat to raise costs on Moscow if fighting escalates. 
  • Summit for Democracy: Kremlin-linked accounts argued that the United States designed the Summit for Democracy to “destroy the international order” and to serve as a pretext for U.S. interference in other countries. They also criticized U.S. democracy.
  • India: Russian diplomats and state media celebrated a series of trade and arms deals struck between Russia and India after Putin and other officials traveled to New Delhi. 

Chinese diplomats and state media last week focused on two main topics: 

  • Summit for Democracy: “Democracy” remained the most frequent term used by Chinese diplomats and state media as they attacked the Summit for Democracy, criticizing the invite list, attempts by democracies to coordinate on tech issues, and the state of U.S. democracy.
  • Olympic boycott: Chinese government-linked accounts framed diplomatic boycotts of the 2020 Beijing Olympics as “politically motivated” and warned China would “hit back.” 

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

Biden administration doubles down on anti-corruption: Last week, the Biden administration unveiled a new anti-corruption strategy that started a government-wide push to target corrupt foreign officials hiding their wealth in the United States and sanction individuals and entities accused of engaging in human rights abuses in five countries. ASD Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph broke down the implications to the Dispatch: “Biden’s anti-corruption strategy delivered essentially everything we had been calling for and then some. Leading by example to get its domestic house in order, the U.S. government advanced a slew of financial transparency reforms sought by watchdogs for two decades, including efforts related to U.S. real estate, shell companies, investment advisors, and other professional enablers of corruption.”

EU weighs sanctions amid potential Russian escalation in Ukraine: EU foreign ministers are considering a new set of sanctions against Russian entities, including the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said would be barred from operating in Germany if the situation in Ukraine escalates. ASD Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina told the Dispatch, “The EU needs to dissuade Moscow from invading Ukraine. Threatening not to approve Nord Stream 2 is one tool in that toolbox. The problem with this strategy is that even if Russia backs down against Ukraine, and Germany does approve the pipeline, Germany and Europe will have opened themselves to another route for Russia’s malign influence. Europe should be saying no war in Ukraine and no pipeline, not either/or.” 

U.S. and allies team up on emerging technologies: The United States will collaborate with seven allies under the Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative to regulate exports of sensitive technologies that authoritarian governments have used to violate human rights. ASD Deputy Director David Salvo said, “Authoritarian regimes, particularly China, are perfecting the use of technological tools to monitor, control, and repress their citizens. It’s critical that the United States and other democracies do not give these regimes more tools to be used for repression, and, just as important, channel this technology to further democratic values instead.”

In Case You Missed It 

  • The European Commission introduced an “anti-coercion instrument” designed to sanction individuals, companies, and countries using economic coercion to influence political policies. 
  • Chinese government entities have been paying foreign influencers to promote pro-Beijing propaganda on social media platforms banned in China, the New York Times found
  • More than 100 confidential Huawei PowerPoint slides suggest that the tech giant plays a bigger role in state surveillance activities than it has publicly acknowledged, the Washington Post found.  
  • Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s office requested $200,000 annually from the state legislature for security after experiencing a surge of threats and harassment in the aftermath of the 2020 election. 
  • The White House will require U.S. security and intelligence agencies to evaluate potential national security implications of a cyber attack 24 hours after it is reported.
  • Israeli surveillance company NSO Group is mulling closing or selling its controversial Pegasus unit as the firm nears a default on $500 million loans after the U.S. Department of Commerce blacklisted it in November. 

ASD in the News

Biden Hosts Summit for Democracy, but Who’s Invited (and Not) Draws Questions. ASD Co-Director Zack Cooper quoted in The Wall Street Journal

A ‘House on Fire’: Biden’s democracy summit comes as US grapples with own democratic crisis. Director Laura Thornton quoted in USA Today

China and Russia attack Biden’s ‘so-called’ Summit of Democracy. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in CNN 

‘This is a charade’: GOP senator, voting experts urge Wisconsin Republicans to halt election attacks. ASD Director Laura Thornton quoted in Wisconsin Watch

Laura Thornton on Building Better Democracies. Director Laura Thornton interviewed on  Inside Sources With Boyd Matheson

Biden sounds alarm over the state of democracy worldwide. Director Laura Thornton quoted in Deutsche Welle

As the White House Hosts a Summit for Democracy, American Democracy is Under Attack by the GOP. Director Laura Thornton interviewed on Background Briefing with Ian Masters

Biden calls for sweeping new push to expose and punish financial corruption. Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph quoted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

China threatens reprisals for Olympic boycott. China Affairs Analyst Bryce Barros quoted in Politico

The Biden administration gets serious on fighting corruption. Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph’s Twitter thread cited in The Washington Post

Mesa County’s steps to affirm voters’ confidence in election outcomes. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in KKCO 11 News

With Taiwan, Ukraine and Jan. 6 as backdrop, U.S. hosts global Summit for Democracy. Director Laura Thornton quoted in the Canadian Press

Inside Biden’s ‘summit for democracy’ amid pressure to make virtual meetings meaningful. Director Laura Thornton quoted in ABC News

Votes and Ballots Podcast Ep 7: How to secure elections with David Levine. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed on Votes and Ballots

Talent management for a modern military. Co-Director Zack Cooper co-hosts War on the Rocks’ Net Assessment Podcast

Quote of the Week

“Strengthening democracy can’t be a solo endeavor that countries do in isolation. It must be approached as a global mission.”

  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken wrote in USA Today on December 8, 2021.
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.