Our Takes

If hard right parties translate their momentum into success in June’s European Parliament elections, they will have a large impact on the EU’s future, from who occupies key offices to the bloc’s support for Ukraine, Senior Manager for Europe and Fellow Vassilis Ntousas and GMF’s Clara Volintiru write for GMF.

Russian claims that the United States and Ukraine were somehow behind last week’s terrorist attack in Moscow help the regime argue “that the fight [in Ukraine] is justified and they need to continue”, Senior Fellow Bret Schafer told The New York Times.

People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) state media outlets “seem to be supporting Russia’s allegations regarding Ukrainian involvement in the attacks” in a manner that is “very reminiscent of their early coverage of the war in Ukraine”, Research Analyst Etienne Soula told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • Terrorist Attack in Moscow: After last week’s horrific terrorist attack at a concert hall in Moscow, Russian diplomatic and state media accounts quickly assigned blame to Ukraine and the West, despite ISIS’ claims of responsibility and the subsequent arrest of Central Asian suspects. Dozens of embassies amplified statements from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, who called US assertions of ISIS involvement an “attempt to cover itself and the Zelensky regime they created with the scarecrow of the outlawed ISIS” and mockingly suggested that ISIS might also be responsible for the assassination of former US President John F. Kennedy and the bombing of the Nord Stream pipeline.
  • Torture Allegations: Russian state media widely shared videos of the harsh interrogation—which Amnesty International has called torture—of the suspects linked to the Moscow attacks. In the most viewed Telegram post from monitored Russian channels last week, RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan posted the “full version” of the “ghoul’s interrogation”. State media used the videos to suggest that the suspects were “offered a large sum of money” and do not speak Russian, again implying a foreign connection. Critics of the harsh treatment of suspects, like Alexei Navalny’s former campaign manager Leonid Volkov, were labeled “foreign agents”. 

The People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s diplomats and state media focused on two main narratives this week:

  • Terrorist Attack in Moscow: Last week, the PRC MFA responded very briefly to a question about Ukrainian involvement in the terrorist attack in Moscow, simply stating that “China opposes all forms of terrorism”. PRC state media outlets like Xinhua, CGTN, and Global Times gave airtime to Russian theories about Ukrainian, and even Western, involvement. The Global Times went furthest, writing that US warnings to Russia about the attack were “too vague” and could have helped the attackers “adjust their plan due to the warning released to the public”.
  • United Nations Resolutions: PRC messengers justified last Friday’s PRC and Russian vetoes of a US draft resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza by claiming that the resolution “implies the continuation of killing, which is ‘unacceptable’”. After a US abstention allowed a different UN resolution to pass on March 25, PRC messaging pivoted to highlight divisions between the United States and Israel, quoting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said that the abstention “hurts Israel’s fight against Hamas”.

News and Commentary

EU releases election security guidelines for Big Tech platforms: The European Commission published election security guidelines under the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) to protect the upcoming European Parliament elections, including recommending that large online platforms hire fact-checkers and moderators covering all 24 EU languages and label both political advertising and AI-generated content as such. Senior Manager for Europe and Fellow Vassilis Ntousas told the Dispatch, “Everyone expects that the European Parliament’s upcoming election will be a prime target of aggressive malign information operations, and this shows the Commission’s clear intent to mitigate systemic risks online that may impact their integrity. Under the newly unveiled guidelines, the biggest online platforms and online search engines will be required to do much more in key areas at the intersection of information integrity and election security, including fact-checking, political advertising, and labeling AI-generated content, while safeguarding fundamental rights. We will see if this proves sufficient to protect against a problem whose magnitude is only expected to increase. But this is precisely why the DSA—the EU’s ambitious bid to regulate online platforms—has been such an important step in ensuring greater transparency and accountability, inter alia for tackling disinformation, across Europe.”

US, UK sanction PRC-linked hackers who targeted foreign lawmakers: The United States indicted seven PRC-linked hackers and sanctioned two of them, as well as a front company, for breaching US critical infrastructure, targeting American and foreign critics of the PRC, and businesses; the United Kingdom sanctioned the same entities for also targeting UK parliamentarians and accessing more than 1,000,000 UK voters’ personal data. Research Analyst Etienne Soula said, “The targets of this cyber espionage campaign highlight the profoundly anti-democratic nature of the PRC’s global interference activities. It did not go after targets of military significance, but after activists, journalists, and elected officials simply for speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party’s oppressive policies at home and abroad. Democracies across the Atlantic, and beyond, must do more to ensure that those who participate in the public debate are protected from the coercion of the world’s largest authoritarian state.”

In Case You Missed It

  • The FBI has resumed sharing information with US technology companies about foreign propaganda efforts on their platforms after a more than half-a-year hiatus fueled by legal criticism of such communications.
  • Russian intelligence-backed hackers have been targeting German politicians from multiple major parties with phishing attacks, according to Google’s Mandiant.
  • Journalists from the far right US outlet Newsmax were encouraged to soften their criticism of Qatar after a member of the Qatari royal family invested $50 million in the network in 2019 and 2020.
  • US senators who were briefed on TikTok said they were told of the PRC’s ability to harvest user data and weaponize it to disseminate propaganda and disinformation on the platform.
  • The European Commission plans to sign a strategic partnership with Australia to help reduce the EU’s reliance on the PRC for critical raw materials such as lithium.
  • Among all EU member states, only Croatia has even partially adopted EU guidelines required to be implemented by November to protect critical sectors from cyber intrusions.

ASD in the News

Quote of the Week

“Death threats are not debate. Death threats do not contribute to the marketplace of ideas. Death threats are not First Amendment protected speech. Death threats and any threats of violence are condemnable criminal acts, and they will be met with the full force of the Department of Justice.”

—US Department of Justice official John Keller said at a press conference in Phoenix, Arizona on March 25 announcing a prison sentence for a man who pleaded guilty to threatening then-Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs over the 2022 US midterm elections.


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