Our Take

The West will not, and cannot, meet Putin’s demands to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina said on BBC News. 

Until Mesa County, Colorado Clerk Tina Peters demonstrates a commitment to free and fair elections above partisan interests, she should be barred from resuming her role overseeing the conduct of its elections, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine writes in the Denver Post. 

Western foreign aid can be a source of resilience against the corrupt influence of Russia and China, Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph explains in a new policy paper.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media last week focused on the following topics: 

  • Blaming the West: Russian propagandists last week framed the West as being responsible for increasing the chance of war in Ukraine. They also warned about Ukraine staging a false flag operation.
  • Transatlantic leaders: Moscow-linked accounts followed Western leaders’ comments on Ukraine, with U.S. President Joe Biden and former German Navy chief Kay-Achim Schönbach’s controversial comments gaining significant coverage.
  • Sanctions and reports: Russian propagandists pushed back against U.S. and UK allegations about Moscow’s efforts to undermine political stability in Ukraine. A U.S. State Department report on Russian disinformation also provoked backlash.
  • Ukrainian weakness: Russian officials and state-funded outlets characterized Ukraine as a failed and isolated state. 

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

  • Olympics: Chinese officials and state-directed media focused heavily on putting a positive spin on China’s preparation for the Winter Olympics. 
  • Russia relations: Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “China-Russia relations enjoy boundless potential,” and he dodged a question about Russian buildup at Ukraine’s border.
  • Criticizing Europe: Chinese propagandists criticized Slovenia for seeking closer ties with Taiwan, France for passing a bill to recognize the genocide in Xinjiang, and the European Parliament for calling for sanctions on Hong Kong’s leaders. 

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

West continues to expose Russian destabilization in Ukraine: On Saturday, the United Kingdom warned that Russia is plotting to install a pro-Kremlin leader in Kyiv. This came shortly after the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned four current and former Ukrainian officials engaged in Kremlin-directed influence and disinformation campaigns aimed at destabilizing the country. Deputy Director David Salvo told the Dispatch, “Even with a pro-Russian government in Kyiv, Russia has lost the majority of the Ukrainian people, who have permanently turned away from Moscow. This is not because of anything the West has done, but because Russia has waged war against them and has sought to prevent Ukrainians from determining their own future. A pro-Russian government won’t change that dynamic.”

Congress remains split over voting rights and election security: Last week, the Senate failed to pass voting rights legislation that included key election security reforms related to post-election audits, securing election infrastructure, and voting machines. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine said, “The Senate’s failure to pass elections legislation may signal the end of efforts to reform federal elections along party lines, but there’s too much at stake to cease such efforts altogether. As it has done previously on multiple occasions, Congress needs to come together and identify changes that will improve U.S. elections and attract sufficient congressional support: reforms such as stronger protections for election workers, expanded in-person early voting, and additional guardrails to help ensure that legitimate election results are not overturned.  Failing to act should not be an option.”

In Case You Missed It 

  • The Department of Homeland Security warned that Russia may conduct a cyberattack against the United States if a U.S. or NATO response to a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine is viewed as a national security threat. 
  • The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol is reviewing a draft Trump executive order that would have directed the defense secretary to seize voting machines in battleground states.
  • A hacktivist group called the Belarusian Cyber Partisans said it launched a cyberattack targeting Belarus’ national railway to slow down Russian troop and freight movement.  
  • Australia accused WeChat of removing Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s account and rebranding it as an account claiming to provide information for Chinese Australians. 
  • The EU Commission released a toolkit that offers guidelines on developing strategies to prevent, identify, and respond to foreign interference in research and innovation.
  • The Chinese government has hired western social media influencers to spread pro-China narratives and promote the upcoming Winter Olympics.

ASD in the News

How Putin’s $11 billion pipeline split NATO and the EU at a time of crisis. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina quoted in CNN 

Can Russia back down in Ukraine? Deputy Director David Salvo quoted in Vox

GOP Blames Biden for Russian Aggression. Don’t Forget About Trump. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in The Daily Beast

Scramble over gas for EU as Russia threatens Ukraine. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina quoted in Axios

US, allies pledge to act swiftly if Russian troops cross Ukraine border. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina quoted in Euractiv

The rise of China’s secondary sanctions. China Affairs Analyst Bryce Barros quoted in Axios

Unravalled: A foreign influence campaign is driving anti-vaccine sentiment. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in The Strand

Lawsuit seeks to block Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters from overseeing 2022 elections. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine interviewed on KKCO 11

Quote of the Week

“The only response to the ongoing threats against our democracy is a sustained investment in those working hard to protect it.” 

  • Former senior cybersecurity advisor at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Matt Masterson said during a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation hearing on January 20, 2022.
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.