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Our Take

Russia is trying to use the debate over Sweden and Finland joining NATO to pull Turkey away from the alliance, Senior Fellow Bret Schafer and Sophia McGrath find in an analysis of Hamilton 2.0 data. 

Protests in Georgia have shown that citizens are not afraid to fight for the country’s democracy, but the Kremlin will continue its imperialist ambitions to ensure Georgia moves away from democracy and the West, Senior Vice President of Democracy Laura Thornton writes in Foreign Policy. 

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives: 

  • US drone takedown: After Russian fighter jets forced down a US Air Force drone over the Black Sea, Kremlin-linked accounts insisted that the drone had simply crashed while “moving deliberately and provocatively towards Russian territory”. Propagandists added that US drones are used to collect intelligence that Ukraine uses to strike inside of Russia.
  • Georgian unrest: Russian messengers took an increasingly aggressive line around the protests in Tbilisi last week that forced Georgia’s ruling party to revoke its proposed “foreign agents” law. Kremlin-backed accounts warned that Georgia today looks like Ukraine before Russia invaded in 2014, and some Russian state media suggested that the United States orchestrated the protests in Tbilisi. 
  • Silicon Valley Bank crash: After Silicon Valley Bank collapsed, Russian state media said US capitalism was “facing an existential crisis” and highlighted the financial fallout in regions around the world. Propagandists also argued that the bank crash was an “engineered” scheme to enrich executives and questioned whether the bank’s commitment to diversity was a “fatal distraction”.    

Chinese diplomats and state media focused on three main topics:

  • Iran-Saudi Arabia deal: Chinese officials and state media promoted Iran and Saudi Arabia’s decision to resume diplomatic relations under Beijing’s auspices. While most of the messaging focused on China’s diplomatic prowess, state media also compared Beijing’s efforts to Washington’s record in the Middle East, and both state media and diplomats complained that Western media was deliberately underplaying this development.
  • AUKUS anger: News that the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia are moving forward on nuclear submarine cooperation drew angry condemnations from Chinese diplomats and state media. China’s Mission to the UN warned about nuclear proliferation, other diplomats deplored the deal’s “cold war mentality”, and state media argued that Australia was being overcharged by its partners.
  • Silicon Valley Bank crash: The few diplomats who commented on Silicon Valley Bank’s insolvency highlighted China and Chinese investors’ insulation from the risks brought on by the collapse. The consul in Osaka and several state media outlets argued the United States was heading for a major financial crisis. CGTN’s Russian branch used a clip from Tucker Carlson’s show to make that point.

News and Commentary

Trade with China provides Russia with dual-use technology: Russian semiconductor imports almost returned to prewar levels by late 2022, with over half of this supply coming from China, while other countries like Turkey and Armenia markedly increased the amount of electrical machinery they traded with Russia in 2022, providing Russia’s military with necessary supplies for its invasion of Ukraine. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman told the Dispatch, “The reality is that the export control system used to stave off the flow of high tech devices and tools to Russia’s war-making effort has gaps and is a work in progress. The United States and its allies are building the plane as they fly it. Creating this international and global consensus around countering [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war in Ukraine has been a key priority across diplomacy, military aid, economic sanctions, and also technology sales. But China’s increasing coziness with Russia presents a real loophole at a time when the Chinese government’s interests are increasingly diverging from those of liberal democracies.”

Russia outlined plan to destabilize Moldova, document reveals: Russia aims to destabilize Moldova’s internal politics to reorient the country toward its sphere of influence by promoting pro-Russian agents in politics and civil society and weakening Moldova’s tilt toward Euro-Atlantic institutions, according to a 2021 Kremlin document obtained by Yahoo News. Research Analyst Joseph Bodnar said, “This document reveals what many already knew: Russia wants to steer Moldova away from the West and into Moscow’s control. This is an immediate challenge—as last week’s protest indicates—but it’s also a long term challenge. The document that surfaced shows Russia’s plans to manipulate Moldova extend to 2030. The Kremlin’s ultimate goal is to assert unchecked influence over Moldovan elites. Moldovans should keep working to ensure that their politicians are accountable to them—not people sitting in the Kremlin.”

“Hyper-partisan” politicians outflanked moderates in media cycle, study finds: The seven most “hyper-partisan” members of Congress generated four times more media coverage than their seven most bipartisan colleagues in the 2022 election cycle, according to a study from George Mason University and Starts With Us, a nonprofit. Managing Director Rachael Dean Wilson said, “The media is one part of an information ecosystem that thrives on controversy. The 2022 Midterm Monitor found similar candidate trends on Twitter. It showed that the most retweeted secretary of state candidate accounts were either affiliated with candidates who spread false narratives about the 2020 election or their opponents. The presence of controversy was a boon for both candidates. The media, social media companies, candidates, and information consumers must seek and reward less polarizing content if we want to change the incentive structure.”

In Case You Missed It

  • The Biden administration demanded that ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, sell its stocks in the social media platform, or the app will face a US ban.
  • Samsung Electronics plans to invest nearly $230 billion over the next 20 years to build the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer near Seoul, as South Korea strives to remain an industry leader amid US and Chinese efforts to increase chip production.
  • North Korean-backed hackers targeted computer security researchers by posing as job recruiters on LinkedIn and continuing discussions on WhatsApp, where they spread malware.
  • The British government launched a new body dedicated to offering businesses advice on how to defend against state-directed security threats, including the theft of intellectual property and other sensitive information.
  • At least three Russian diplomats accused of espionage and expelled by European Union member states have resurfaced as newly accredited diplomats in Serbia, according to a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty investigation.
  • India will require smartphone makers to allow the removal of pre-installed apps over concerns about espionage and user data protection, citing China’s outsized role in India’s smartphone market as a national security threat.

ASD in the News

Russia “Watching with Concern” after Georgia Drops “Foreign Agent” Bill. Senior Vice President of Democracy Laura Thornton interviewed on DW News

The 8th of March in Tbilisi: The “Laws Story.” Senior Vice President of Democracy Laura Thornton interviewed in Caucasian Journal

Russia disinformation looks to US far right to weaken Ukraine support. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in The Guardian

Digital Bridge: RT en Español. Research Analyst Joseph Bodnar quoted in Politico EU

Quote of the Week

“What gets Ukrainians to act is democracy, freedom, and independence. This is something that we cannot live without.”

  • Oksana Markarova, ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, said at a GMF event on a Marshall Plan blueprint for Ukraine on March 14, 2023.

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