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Our Take

The fight against oligarchy and corruption in Ukraine is critical to the integrity and security of the rules-based international order. Senior Fellow Josh Rudolph, Amb. Norman Eisen, and Cameron Bertron outline steps Ukraine, the EU, US Congress, and G7 donors should take to support Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts in a new report.

Russia’s propaganda push about the Kakhovka dam collapse marked one of the Kremlin’s most aggressive messaging campaigns of the war, far outpacing previous campaigns about the Nord Stream bombings and the Bucha massacre, but it failed to generate the same level of engagement, Research Analyst Joseph Bodnar and Research Trainee Gabriele Sava find in an analysis of Hamilton 2.0 data. Read The Record’s exclusive coverage of the findings here. 

The United States should follow seven recommendations to enhance transatlantic technology competitiveness vis-à-vis China, including building a US-EU joint analysis center to track technology leakage to China and investing in democracy-affirming technologies like privacy-preserving AI, Senior Fellow Lindsay Gorman said in testimony to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The United States can learn seven major lessons from other democracies to combat polarization and election-related disinformation, Managing Director Rachael Dean Wilson and Kevin Johnson write in The Bulwark.

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • Counteroffensive: Kremlin-linked accounts continued to frame Ukraine’s counteroffensive as a failure, claiming that hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers were dying and that some were pretending to be incapacitated to avoid fighting. Russian propagandists also reupped attacks on Western involvement in Ukraine, asserting that the West had prevented Kyiv from deescalating the conflict and funneled money away from their own domestic issues to arm Ukraine.
  • Economic forum: “St. Petersburg International Economic Forum” was one of the ten most frequently used key phrases in tweets from Russia-affiliated accounts last week as they highlighted the 130 countries that attended the forum and the 900 agreements that were signed. They also amplified President Vladimir Putin’s speech at the event and insisted that Western sanctions against Russia had no major impact.
  • Virus conspiracies: Three of the four most retweeted posts from Russian state media accounts last week relayed Russian officials’ claims that the United States was using mosquitos and ticks to transmit Ebola, HIV, and hepatitis B. Despite the success of those tweets, only a few dozen posts last week mentioned the conspiracy, and none of those tweets were written in English.   

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

  • Blinken in Beijing: While the bulk of state media coverage focused on the “candid, in-depth and constructive talks” between US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his interlocutors, Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying and state-affiliated media personalities stressed that it was China, not the United States, that was in a position of strength. Several accounts also railed against the supposed “gray filter” that Western media allegedly used to make Beijing appear more polluted in images taken during Blinken’s visit, omitting to mention that CGTN used the exact same “gray” footage.
  • Li Qiang in Berlin: Chinese Premier Li Qiang was in Germany at the beginning of this week, before continuing to France. During the first arm of the trip, Li warned German CEOs against following the EU’s “de-risking” strategy. Further attacking the concept, Xinhua and China Daily both quoted Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, who said that de-risking was not “de-sinicization”.
  • Champion of the Global South: Li Qiang’s trip to Paris took place against the backdrop of the “Summit for a New Global Financing Pact”, a French initiative to explore how to better support developing countries. The timing fits within China’s overall strategy to portray itself as the champion of the Global South. In the run-up to the summit, Chinese messaging promoted the Belt and Road Initiative’s positive role in Africa, called the US alternative a “failure”, dismissed “debt trap” accusations as lies, and claimed that the West was Africa’s real problem.

News and Commentary

Western democracies pledge billions to rebuild Ukraine: The United States, EU, and United Kingdom each announced billions of dollars in recovery assistance to Ukraine during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London this week, much of which, leaders said, will be conditioned upon Ukraine’s continued delivery of anti-corruption reforms. Senior Fellow for Malign Finance Josh Rudolph said, “Over the past two days, donor governments, especially the EU, made impressive commitments to help Ukraine win the war and the peace. As we have advocated, donors told Ukraine that recovery and reconstruction assistance is dependent on the delivery of reforms, a strong step that will help Ukraine push out the corrupt influence of oligarchs. But donor governments did not commit to the concrete internal organizing steps we have recommended to improve their own contribution to transparency and accountability, so there remains more to do in the months ahead.”

US lawmakers, regulators scramble to regulate AI in elections: The Federal Communications Commission announced it will consider rules governing artificial intelligence in campaign ads, after nine states have already passed—and at least four others are considering—laws regulating deepfakes, most of which targeted election disinformation and pornography. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman told the Dispatch, “Elections are clearly a flashpoint when we think about the high-stakes risks of AI to democratic societies. Unfortunately, we have already seen AI-generated images used in 2024 election campaign materials, with the season not even underway. The age of AI-enabled disinformation is here, and our institutions need to be up to the task come 2024.”

EU proposes bans on sensitive technology production in China, Russia: The European Commission proposed a strategy that would prevent European companies from making sensitive technology like chips and artificial intelligence in geopolitical competitors like China and Russia, and to strengthen the EU’s export controls on critical supplies. Head of European Operations Vassilis Ntousas said, The European Commission denied producing its first-ever Economic Security Strategy as a response to Beijing, but it is certainly eyeing China—and to a lesser extent Russia—if you look at what is in it. This is a much-needed and much-anticipated political paper that, if adopted, will serve as a solid foundation for how the EU manages China’s pursuit of global technological and industrial leadership. But the ideas contained in the strategy are simply the starting point in the necessary discussion the bloc will need to have, not only on how to deal with Beijing’s economic might, but also on how to maneuver wider geopolitical and geo-economic reordering trends.”

In Case You Missed It

  • The US Department of Justice announced the creation of a new unit within its National Security Division devoted to disrupting and prosecuting cyber threats to national security amid top US cybersecurity experts’ increased warnings about cyberattacks from China and Russia.
  • Leading artificial intelligence models, including ChatGPT, are not compliant with the EU’s proposed AI Act standards, according to researchers at Stanford University.
  • The European Council agreed to loosen the European Commission’s planned protections for journalists from government surveillance and spyware, instead carving out exceptions for member states in the name of protecting national security.
  • Kyrgyz and Kazakh companies have exported dual-use technology—including US products—to companies funding Russia’s war effort, according to a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty investigation; however, Kazakh and Armenian officials have promised to restrict trade of dual-use and luxury goods to Russia to avoid possible EU sanctions.
  • A Chinese government-linked hacking group known for phishing and malware attacks was behind a recent spate of attempts to hack foreign ministries in Central and South America.
  • Moldova’s Constitutional Court dissolved the country’s top pro-Kremlin party over unconstitutional activities, weeks after the EU sanctioned the party’s leader for illicit links to Russia’s government.

ASD in the News

Geopolitical Com-mission accomplished? Solid progress, way to go. Head of European Operations Vassilis Ntousas and GMF Fellow Gesine Weber write in Euractiv

As well as fighting Russia, Ukrainians are battling corruption at home. Senior Fellow for Malign Finance Josh Rudolph quoted in The Guardian

West needs strategy to tie Ukraine aid to corruption progress, thinktank says. ASD research “Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Front” highlighted in The Guardian

Kremlin launches ‘aggressive’ propaganda campaign to blame Ukraine for Kakhovka Dam collapse, researchers say. Research Analyst Joseph Bodnar quoted in The Record

Rebuilding Ukraine. Senior Fellow for Malign Finance Josh Rudolph interviewed on The Monocle Daily 

Rebuilding Ukraine Requires Winning on the Anti-Corruption Front. Senior Fellow for Malign Finance Josh Rudolph interviewed on Inside Sources

Lessons from Other Democracies: Ideas for Combatting Mistrust and Polarization in US Elections. ASD research highlighted in Election Law Blog 

Lessons From Other Democracies. ASD research highlighted in Election Line

Europe has a problem: Ignoring Chinese propaganda. Research Analyst Etienne Soula quoted in Brussels Morning

Biden Administration Explores Actions to Address Chinese Cloud Computing Security. ASD research highlighted in Metacurity

Quote of the Week

“The outcome of this war will not only determine how people will live in Ukraine, but also how they will live in the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, France or Lithuania in the years to come. It is a war for the future of Europe, and for the world order that has been so obviously violated by Russia.”

  • Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal wrote in Politico Europe on June 21, ahead of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London.

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