ICYMI, ASD hosted a panel at GMF’s Brussels Forum on the US 2024 elections. Watch the panel with ASD Managing Director Rachael Dean Wilson, pollster Frank Luntz, Deutsche Welle Washington bureau chief Ines Pohl, and MSNBC host Ali Velshi here.

Our Take

Instead of changing the country’s trajectory, Turkey’s elections gave Erdoğan license to extend one-man rule and shape Turkey’s future, Head of European Operations Vassilis Ntousas writes for the Interference Matters blog. The most likely result of Erdoğan’s victory is a continued descent into autocratic governance in Turkey, Research Assistant Nathan Kohlenberg argues in his latest piece.

The quick rise of artificial intelligence poses serious risks to democracies and the ability to distinguish fact from fiction, and those threats necessitate proper regulation, Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman said on BBC Newshour.

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • Moscow drone strikes: After drone strikes damaged several apartment buildings around Moscow, Russian officials blamed the “neo-Nazi Kiev regime” for the “terrorist attacks”. Propagandists argued that Western support for Ukraine had led Kyiv to launch “increasingly reckless criminal acts”. They also insisted that Russia’s air defense systems worked effectively. 
  • Russia-Africa ties: “Lavrov” was the second most used key phrase in tweets by Kremlin-linked accounts last week as they highlighted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s tour through Africa, during which he made stops in Kenya, Burundi, Mozambique, and South Africa. Propagandists showcased Lavrov receiving warm welcomes, trying to justify the war in Ukraine, and bashing the West. They also highlighted the foreign minister’s call for Africa to become the center of global reform.
  • Turkish elections: Turkey was the fourth most mentioned country by Russia-affiliated accounts last week, coinciding with incumbent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s victory in the Turkish presidential election runoff. Propagandists showed Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulating Erdogan and thousands of people in Turkey cheering on his win. They also highlighted Erdogan’s victory speech, which included the Turkish president vowing not to let the LGBTQ community “infiltrate” his governing party.  

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

  • Debt ceiling: Chinese diplomats and state media attacked all US decisions surrounding the latest raising of the debt ceiling. Late last week, CGTN Arabic spoke of an impending “US debt default” and the Consul in Osaka painted a gloomy picture of the coming “debt crisis”. As it became clear this week that US politicians would raise the debt limit, CGTN affiliate T-House warned that future generations would have to pay the bill and Xinhua called the process a “joke” and “an incurable toxic addiction”.
  • Elon Musk in Beijing: Elon Musk is currently in Beijing where he has already met with several Chinese officials, including Foreign Minister Qin Gang. Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying, the Chinese consul in Belfast and several state media accounts all amplified Musk’s statements against economic decoupling between China and Western countries. On Tuesday, Musk also earned many likes and retweets from diplomats and state media alike for saying that China’s space program “is far more advanced than most people realize.”
  • Technological prowess: Even before Elon Musk’s praise, Chinese messengers were already promoting the latest achievement of China’s space program with “Shenzhou16” (the name of the latest launched shuttle), “SpaceChina”, and “space” all among the ten most frequently used hashtags in Chinese tweets last week. In addition, diplomats and state media all enthusiastically promoted the maiden flight of China’s first “domestically developed” passenger jet, conveniently omitting the many foreign contributions to the plane’s technology.

News and Commentary

Texas increases partisan oversight of local elections, targets Harris County: Texas lawmakers passed a series of bills that would increase state control of local elections and specifically target Democratic-stronghold Harris County, including by abolishing the county’s election administrator post and empowering the secretary of state to intervene in its elections. Senior Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine told the Dispatch, Harris County elections have had more than enough problems in recent years to merit greater scrutiny from state officials and legislators. But if Texas lawmakers really want to see Harris County—and other Texas jurisdictions—improve their administration of elections, they should push for fully funded, proactive, periodic, nonpartisan reviews of all Texas counties that can help develop best practices and shore up areas of weakness. Waiting until a county has problems and then trying to intervene in a hostile manner isn’t likely to be the answer.”

US, EU call out Polish law that could target opposition ahead of elections: The US Department of State and European Commission voiced concern about a new Polish law that could allow the ruling party to disqualify opposition candidates from the country’s fall parliamentary election by improperly alleging they acted under Russian influence. Program Assistant Krystyna Sikora said, “The United States is setting a high precedent in holding Poland accountable for its democracy crisis. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the United States has been hesitant to comment on the ruling party’s persistent attempts to consolidate power and erode democratic values. Although Poland’s support for Ukraine is unparalleled, Western allies should not refrain from making it clear that Warsaw’s efforts at saving a neighboring democracy do not give it a bye for dismantling its own.”

In Case You Missed It

  • Ukraine sanctioned Iran for supplying Russia with weaponry, including the drones used in last weekend’s attack on Kyiv, banning exports of dual-use goods to Tehran and restricting Iranian assets in the country.
  • Recruitment ads from the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organization, accumulated over 120,000 views on Twitter and Facebook in the last ten months, according to a United Kingdom-based disinformation tracking group.
  • Twitter left a voluntary EU “code of practice” on combating online disinformation, according to a European Commission official who also warned the platform to obey the bloc’s new digital rules coming into force in August.
  • China’s special envoy for the war in Ukraine suggested that European countries demand a ceasefire and accept Russia’s control over the parts of Ukraine it currently occupies, prompting questions about China’s impartiality.
  • Azerbaijan’s government targeted Armenian politicians and journalists with Pegasus spyware as the two countries clashed over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, marking the first recorded use of spyware as a tool during war, according to digital rights researchers.
  • The EU sanctioned a Moldovan pro-Russia oligarch and politician for paying and training individuals looking to spark unrest and overthrow the Moldovan government.

ASD in the News

Foreign influence is still an election threat. Senior Vice President of Democracy Laura Thornton writes in Dallas Morning News

Chinese apps remain hugely popular in the U.S. despite efforts to ban TikTok. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies quoted in CNBC

The 21 May Greek election: entirely unexpected and extremely consequential. Head of European Operations Vassilis Ntousas writes in Progressive Post

Quote of the Week

“While we have a real competition with China, we also want to make sure that doesn’t veer into conflict… What I hear around the world is countries looking to the United States, Europe, China to manage the relationship that we have responsibly, and we very much seek to do that.”

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a press conference after meetings of the US-EU Trade and Technology Council on May 31 in Luleå, Sweden.

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