Our Take

International donors can take five steps to ensure accountability and transparency in Ukrainian reconstruction, Senior Fellow Josh Rudolph and Amb. Norm Eisen write in the new GMF publication Toward a Marshall Plan for Ukraine. Learn more about these steps on ASD’s Interference Matters blog and in Politico EU.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regime could use autocratic tactics to suppress turnout and remain in power during this weekend’s run-off elections, Research Assistant Nathan Kohlenberg warns. 

Understanding the Chinese Communist Party’s interference in Canadian elections—and deterring it from happening in the future—should be an issue that unites Canadian politicians of all parties, Managing Director David Salvo writes in The Globe and Mail.

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives this week:    

  • Belgorod: “Belgorod region” was the most used key phrase in tweets by Russian propagandists for two days after anti-Kremlin fighters aligned with Ukraine staged an attack in the region. The Kremlin claimed that Ukraine launched the attack to distract from its war losses, highlighted civilian casualties in Belgorod, and released images of the supposed “sabotage group”. Russian officials and state media called for the attackers to be “exterminated like rats” and then celebrated how Russian forces “liquidated” them. 
  • Bakhmut: Kremlin-affiliated accounts celebrated Russia taking control of Bakhmut, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs posting an image of the Russian flag being held up among ruble and Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulating both the military and the Wagner Group. State media attacked Ukrainian officials for claiming that Bakhmut had limited strategic value and said that NATO had been embarrassed by the loss of the city. They also argued that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had used fighting in Bakhmut as a personal fundraising pitch while sending men to die there.
  • G7 summit: Russian propagandists tweeted about the G7 or Hiroshima, the city in Japan where the group’s most recent meeting was held, more than 500 times last week. The Kremlin said the G7 was the main instigator of “global problems”. Russian diplomatic accounts claimed that G7 leaders were trying to control the world but lacked even domestic support, while state media showcased people protesting the summit.    

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

  • G7 summit: Despite the G7’s assurances that it did not “seek to thwart China’s economic progress”, the condemnation of Beijing’s “unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion” angered Chinese diplomats and state media. The Chinese consul in Osaka and China Daily highlighted anti-summit protests, Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying questioned the grouping’s legitimacy, and diplomats and state media outlets accused the United States of being the main source of global economic coercion.
  • Japan: As was the case earlier in May, China’s messaging singled out Japan, the current chair of the G7. The Global Times portrayed Tokyo as a victim of US economic coercion, and Hua Chunying highlighted the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima. At the same time, a CGTN reporter accused Japan and the United States of committing “genocide” in Okinawa, and China’s ambassador to Australia gave an interview in which he stated that the Japanese had “kill[ed]” and “tortur[ed]” Australians. The Chinese consul in Barcelona also called Tokyo’s discharge of radioactive water a risk “to all mankind”.
  • China in Central Asia: “ChinaCentralAsiaSummit” remained the most frequent key phrase and hashtag in tweets from Chinese propagandists last week. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hailed the summit a “great success”. Diplomats and state media highlighted the centrality of China in every part of the summit’s agenda and amplified Chinese rhetoric about “Xi’s vision” for a “harmonious and interconnected Central Asia”. Chinese voices evoked China’s past influence in the region, with Hua Chunying talking of “millennia-old friendship” and embassies in Angola and Estonia highlighting the imperial undertones of the welcome ceremony.

News and Commentary

Fake AI image of Pentagon explosion goes viral, causes stock market dip: A fake image of an explosion near the Pentagon suspected of being generated by artificial intelligence went viral on Monday morning after being shared by several accounts, including RT and pages falsely claiming affiliations with Bloomberg News, causing a modest stock market dip. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said, “The ‘Pentagon burning’ incident is a textbook example of researcher concerns around deepfakes and AI-generated images: they can cause real-world damage, both financial and reputational. It’s no surprise that RT seized on a manipulated image of the Pentagon burning to push its anti-US propaganda and paint the United States as in decline. Until social media platforms adopt content authenticity architectures wholesale, they’ll be adding fuel to the fire.”

Chinese hackers targeted Kenya as it struggled with debt: Chinese hackers targeted Kenyan government ministries and institutions in a years-long campaign to gather information on debt Kenya owes to China as part of its participation in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, according to a Reuters analysis. Research Analyst Etienne Soula said, “Chinese diplomats and state media constantly claim that, unlike Western democracies, their country invests in Africa in a manner that is conducive to the continent’s development and respects national sovereignty. However, the latest revelations from Kenya show that neither is true. Not only is the cost of servicing Chinese loans putting Nairobi under considerable financial stress, but also Beijing’s professed commitment to non-interference rings hollow in the light of its cyberattacks against several Kenyan ministries.”

Kari Lake loses bid to overturn Ariz. midterm election: On Monday, the losing Arizona gubernatorial candidate and outspoken election denier Kari Lake lost another court battle in her effort to overturn the 2022 midterm election, after the Maricopa County superior judge ruled that Lake failed to provide evidence of misconduct by election officials in the county’s signature-verification procedures. Senior Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine told the Dispatch, Lake’s latest loss underscores the benefit of having experienced, skilled election officials defending US elections. In his decision, the Maricopa County superior judge repeatedly referenced the testimony of Maricopa County Elections Director Reynaldo Valenzuela to support his findings that Maricopa County’s signature review process complied with Arizona law. Valenzuela not only provided the court with a ground level view of the process based on the 1,600 signatures he personally reviewed during the midterms, but he also provided a broad overview of the County’s signature verification process based upon his 33 years of experience. This combination of experience and expertise enabled the judge to more easily dispense with the testimony from Lake’s witnesses, who critiqued the signature review process as they understood it, but didn’t have Mr. Valenzuela’s depth of knowledge or understanding of the process.”


In Case You Missed It

  • TikTok employees cataloged users’ personal information—including photos, country of residence, and device IDs—on a private messaging platform used by thousands of ByteDance employees, including those in China, according to documents seen by the New York Times.
  • The White House announced new initiatives for federal research and development on artificial intelligence, focusing on priority investment areas, public consultation over how best to mitigate risks, and increased cooperation with allies.
  • A Chinese government-backed espionage group hacked into critical infrastructure in Guam, among other locations, causing fears that China is laying the groundwork for future disruptions during a potential attack against Taiwan.
  • German prosecutors charged four former executives of surveillance technology company FinFisher for illegally selling spyware that hacks into phones and computers used by Turkish authorities.
  • Ireland’s Data Protection Commission fined Meta €1.2 billion for transferring data from Facebook users in Europe to the United States in violation of EU data privacy laws.
  • China’s government banned large Chinese firms from buying chips and other products from US company Micron, citing national security risks, in an apparent response to similar US bans on Chinese companies.

ASD in the News

Time for Ukraine to launch an anti-corruption counteroffensive. Senior Fellow for Malign Finance Josh Rudolph and Norman Eisen write for Politico Europe

How far-right nationalism campaigns in Turkey have impacted its presidential election. Research Analyst Nathan Kohlenberg quoted in NPR

Twitter’s restriction of Turkish election content sparks fear of precedent. Research Analyst Nathan Kohlenberg quoted in The Hill

Risk and resilience in the face of Russian interference in Europe & Eurasia. Managing Director David Salvo appeared on an AidData panel

It’s not just getting F-16s, it’s keeping them in the air. “Toward a Marshall Plan for Ukraine” highlighted in Politico’s National Security Daily

Georgians Protest Reopening of Georgia-Russia Flights. Senior Vice President for Democracy Laura Thornton quoted in Georgia Today

Will David Johnston call for a public inquiry on foreign interference? We will find out at noon Tuesday. Managing Director David Salvo quoted in Zoomer Radio

Russian oil tycoon Vagit Alekperov readies $3.5 billion bid for IT giant. Managing Director David Salvo quoted in Upstream

Quote of the Week

“A bitter chapter in the history of our continent, written by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to strengthen his imperialistic insanity, will end with free Ukraine ascending to the EU as a rightful member state.”

  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at the celebration of the 160th anniversary of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) on May 23.

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