Our Take

The war in Ukraine is forcing Georgia to choose between Western democracies and Russia, and the country seems to be leaning toward Russia, Senior Vice President for Democracy Laura Thornton writes for GMF. 

Russian state media outlets are exploiting the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria for their own gain, showcasing Moscow’s humanitarian assistance while bashing the West for allegedly hampering humanitarian aid, Research Analyst Joseph Bodnar told Bloomberg.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives: 

  • Earthquake diplomacy: Kremlin-linked accounts tweeted “earthquake” more than 1,500 times, which is more than they tweeted the word “Ukraine,” as they highlighted Russia’s humanitarian assistance to Turkey and Syria and criticized Western sanctions against Syria.  
  • War in Ukraine: Russian propagandists claimed that Ukraine was using banned chemical weapons, that Ukrainian leaders are sympathetic to Nazism, and that the United States was sending “depleted uranium weapons” to Ukraine and training “jihadists” to carry out terrorist attacks in Russia. 
  • Moldovan tensions: Russian officials denied Moldova’s allegation that the Kremlin was planning to stage a coup in the country, but the topic did not draw a significant amount of attention from Russia’s broader propaganda apparatus.  

Chinese diplomats and state media focused on three main topics:

News and Commentary

US creates interdepartmental task force to combat autocratic use of technology: The US government announced the creation of a “Disruptive Technology Strike Force”, a collaboration between the Justice and Commerce departments, to combat autocratic governments’ “acquisition, use, and abuse” of disruptive technology and to protect US technology from foreign adversaries. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said, “The next generation of disruptive technologies will dominate all forms of national power, and the United States can’t afford to get caught on the back foot while autocratic rivals steal homegrown innovation. The fact that we’re seeing new agencies like the Commerce Department out front in these initiatives shows the need for a whole-of-society approach to this new era of competition in which the government partners with the business community in defense of our democracy’s technology competitiveness.”

Israeli contractors admit to meddling in elections for payment: A team of Israeli contractors, led by a former Israeli special forces operative, says it has covertly meddled in more than 30 elections across Africa, Latin America, Europe, and the United States by using fake social media profiles and spreading disinformation in exchange for cash or cryptocurrency payments, according to an investigation by 30 media outlets. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine said, “Threats to elections remain a rapidly evolving issue, and actions like those allegedly taken by this team of Israeli contractors underscore the threat posed not only by those seeking to undermine democratic elections, but by those seeking to simply make an extra buck. Israel’s government should immediately commence an investigation into the ‘Team Jorge’ revelations to ascertain whether anyone in government aided the team, while democracies across the world should come together to determine how best to upend this global private market aimed at casting doubt on the legitimacy of their elections.”

Google to expand campaign against online misinformation in Europe: Google will launch a “prebunking” campaign in Germany to counter misinformation through short advertisement videos informing viewers how to spot false claims before they encounter them after the campaign received positive results in Poland, Slovakia, and Czechia. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer told the Dispatch, “Tech platforms like Google both have a responsibility and are perfectly positioned to run digital literacy campaigns, given that they have the data to best understand how audiences are encountering manipulated or misleading content online. You can always criticize the companies for not doing enough, but this really should only be viewed as a positive.”

In Case You Missed It

  • A majority of the special grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 loss in Georgia believes some witnesses may have committed perjury during their testimony and recommended charges.
  • China sanctioned US defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon in response to US sanctions on six Chinese aerospace companies and accused the United States of flying high-altitude balloons over Xinjiang and Tibet.
  • Moldova’s parliament approved a new pro-EU government days after President Maia Sandu detailed an alleged Russian plot to overthrow the country’s democratically elected government.
  • A group of Arizona voters expressed belief that the 2020 elections and 2022 Arizona gubernatorial election were stolen despite hearing explanations to the contrary from election experts and journalists during a focus group organized by veteran pollster Frank Luntz.
  • Of the 613 individuals that Turkish authorities accused of sharing “provocative posts” about the recent earthquake, 293 face legal proceedings and 78 have been arrested so far.
  • Former President Donald Trump’s campaign paid a research firm to investigate electoral fraud in the aftermath of the 2020 election, but the campaign did not publish the results after the group found no evidence to substantiate Trump’s claims.

ASD in the News

Security Pros Break Into Buildings to Help Beef Up Defenses. Research Analyst Joseph Bodnar quoted in Bloomberg

Don’t let election-denier nonsense hamstring elections division. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in Bakersfield.com

Democracy is living on borrowed time. ASD research highlighted in The Globe and Mail

Quote of the Week

“It is time to coalesce around a new agenda for aiding the cause of global freedom, one that addresses the economic grievances that populists have so effectively exploited, that defangs so-called digital authoritarianism, and that reorients traditional democracy assistance to grapple with modern challenges.”

  • USAID Administrator and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power wrote in an article for Foreign Affairs on February 16.

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