The German Marshall Fund of the United States condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Read the full statement from GMF President Heather Conley here. 

We’ve launched a Ukraine-focused version of our Hamilton 2.0 dashboard to provide a summary analysis of Russian government and state-backed media tweets, videos, and articles related to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Try it out here.

Our Take

Ukraine should be the rallying cry for Summit for Democracy participants to make good on their commitments, Director Laura Thornton and former Ukrainian MP Hanna Hopko write in The Hill. 

Sanctions are an important tool for imposing costs on Russia, but they aren’t powerful enough to change behavior in the Kremlin, Non-Resident Fellow Joshua Kirschenbaum argues on ASD’s Interference Matters blog

Today’s primary elections in Texas could provide the first hints of how new voting laws will impact the conduct of the 2022 U.S. midterm elections, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine writes in The Fulcrum.

View all our work on the Russia crisis here.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media last week focused on three main topics related to the war in Ukraine:

  • Russia is liberating Ukraine: Russian officials and state media attempted to justify the invasion of Ukraine by claiming the goal was to “demilitarize and denazify” the country, and they shared videos of people in eastern Ukraine welcoming Russia’s move.
  • Ukraine is committing war crimes: Kremlin-backed messengers argued that Ukraine has been committing war crimes and pushed claims that Kyiv had attacked residential areas and children’s hospitals.
  • Western sanctions are ineffective: Moscow’s propagandists insisted that Russians wouldn’t be impacted by the West’s economic retaliation. Instead, they called those measures hypocritical and damaging to the West. 

Chinese diplomats and state media last week focused on these narratives around Ukraine:

  • China’s partnership with Russia: Chinese diplomats stopped short of explicitly supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but repeatedly emphasized Moscow’s “legitimate security demands” and insisted on the “complex and unique historical context” of the crisis.
  • The West is to blame: Chinese accounts criticized the United States, with diplomats accusing the country of being the real warmonger. State media castigated NATO for its “eastward expansion” and for not helping Ukraine enough.
  • Lessons for Taiwan: Despite Chinese statements that Taiwan should not be compared to Ukraine, the Global Times warned the island’s officials that Ukraine shows that “Washington is not reliable.” 

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

Major social media firms ban Kremlin-backed broadcasters in Europe: Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube removed Russian state broadcasters RT and Sputnik from their platforms in Europe following the EU’s move to ban the outlets and their subsidiaries. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer said, “The Kremlin has long played on an uneven information playing field, where its propagandists were given free reign outside its borders while open information was restricted within Russia. But in the current context, it is rapidly becoming untenable for the democratic world to host Kremlin propaganda meant to justify this atrocious war, especially as Russian regulators accelerate their censorship of truthful reporting at home.”

West sanctions Russian financial system: In response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the United States, Canada, and European allies escalated economic retaliation against Russia, including by cutting off Russia’s largest banks from the SWIFT bank messaging system and passing sanctions targeting Russian business elites and government officials. The U.S. Treasury Department prohibited dealings with the Russian Central Bank in the United States and sanctioned the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Non-Resident Fellow Joshua Kirschenbaum told the Dispatch, “These measures will cause severe damage to Russia’s economy, with the full effects taking months to be felt. This is a very powerful response given the European dependence on Russian natural gas. Sanctions can influence the Kremlin’s political calculus, particularly if they foment domestic dissent. But unlike direct military and economic assistance to Ukraine, they will do nothing to affect the situation on the ground in the coming days.”

Germany unveils new era in energy policy: During a special session of the Bundestag on February 27, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged to cut energy dependence on Russia and diversify energy resources by creating strategic energy reserves and investing in the construction of two liquefied natural gas terminals on the northern coast. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina said, “The decision to halt Nord Stream 2 and seek non-Russian sources of energy is an enormous policy change that both speaks to the gravity of Russia’s war in Ukraine, but also, sets Germany up for greater policy agency against the aggressive energy powerhouse. By saying no to projects that import coercion along with gas molecules, Germany is regaining the trust of its neighbors and embracing a more strategic position in Europe.”

In Case You Missed It 

  • Shell oil cut ties with Russian state energy company Gazprom and ended its investment  in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and BP sold its shares in Russian state firm Rosneft.   
  • Ukraine is mobilizing an “IT army” to target key Russian websites and combat Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaign.
  • Hacker collective Anonymous declared a cyberwar against Russia after claiming responsibility for distributed denial of service attacks against RT and two Russian government sites.  
  • Facebook and Twitter removed accounts associated with two disinformation campaigns that aimed to sow distrust in the Ukrainian government and military.
  • Nearly a third of mail-in ballots cast in Harris County, Texas have been flagged for rejection because of new ballot and application ID rules in the state’s new voting law.
  • Election officials in several states have raised concerns over insider threats and are advocating for more measures to secure voting systems ahead of the midterm elections.

ASD in the News

Russia’s War On Ukraine. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina and Non-Resident Fellow Clint Watts in conversation on a GMF-ASD Twitter Space

Why Putin Seems So Focused on Invading Ukraine. Deputy Director David Salvo interviewed on Cheddar News

The Latest With Russia’s Invasion Into Ukraine, Plus We Discuss The Impacts Of Misinformation. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer interviewed on KPCC’s AirTalk

Propaganda, fake videos of Ukraine invasion bombard users. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in AP

Oil, gas, and banking sanctions are ‘the real leverage’ against Russia, ASD fellow says. Non-Resident Fellow Joshua Kirschenbaum interviewed on Yahoo Finance

‘Murkiness and doubt’: Putin’s playbook meant to throw White House, allies off balance on Ukraine invasion. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina quoted in USA Today

Misinformation on Social Media in the Ukraine War. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer interviewed on Bloomberg

Balance of Power: Energy Market Concerns Over Ukraine. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina interviewed on Bloomberg’s Balance of Power

GMF’s Kristine Berzina talks to Al Jazeera about the new sanctions on Russia. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina interviewed on Al Jazeera

White House steers clear of Russia oil, gas sanctions for now. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina quoted in National Journal

Conciliatory no more: Germany’s new toughness on Russia. Senior Fellow Krisitne Berzina quoted in the Christian Science Monitor

Ukraine, Disinformation, Propaganda and the Platforms. Non-Resident Fellow Clint Watts interviewed on Tech Policy Press’ The Sunday Show

GMF’s Kristine Berzina talks to DW News about the current state of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina interviewed on DW

Ukraine-Russia Crisis. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina interviewed on France 24

Tech on high alert for Russia’s Ukraine disinformation offensive. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in Axios 

A “New Normal” in Eastern Europe? Deputy Director David Salvo interviewed on Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson

Reality Check 2.22.2022. Deputy Director David Salvo interviewed on WURD Radio 

Europe readies for armed conflict, diplomacy craters. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina quoted in Courthouse News Service

Biden vow to alienate Putin as ‘pariah’ faces challenges. Research Analyst Etienne Soula quoted in The Hill

US Indo-Pacific Strategy Short on Trade Incentives, Experts Say. Co-Director Zack Cooper quoted in Voice of America

Quote of the Week

“This is not just Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is the beginning of a war against Europe, against European structures, against democracy, against basic human rights, against a global order of law, rules and peaceful coexistence.”

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on February 27, 2022.
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.