GMF’s annual Brussels Forum is live today, April 18 and tomorrow, April 19! Tune in here to follow conversations on issues impacting the transatlantic community, including a panel about challenges to election administration on April 19 at 9:15 CEST moderated by GMF Senior Vice President of Democracy Laura Thornton and a discussion about artificial intelligence’s (AI) impact on the information space, moderated by ASD Senior Fellow Bret Schafer on April 19 at 10:05 CEST.

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Our Takes

The Georgian government reintroduced a controversial foreign agent law after revoking it last year due to popular outrage. The United States and the EU should make clear that a hasty adoption of the law jeopardizes the country’s Euro-Atlantic trajectory, Research Analyst Nathan Kohlenberg and Research Trainee Isabella Nieminen write for ASD.

Russian messaging’s focus on corruption in Ukraine “reflects a long-established propaganda method of using facts or partial truths to anchor a broader assertion or accusation, sometimes making a leap in logic”, Senior Fellow Bret Schafer told NBC News.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • Iranian Attack on Israel: The Iranian attack on Israel was the most mentioned topic from Russian state media and diplomats on all monitored platforms. Although much of the content factually relayed events in the Middle East, Russian state media outlet Inosmi suggested that the United States forced Iran to retaliate against Israel in an attempt to turn Israel into a “Middle Eastern Ukraine”. Sputnik’s Iranian outlet also claimed that US bases in the Middle East “have become America’s Achilles’ heel because of their vulnerability to attack”.  
  • Protests in Georgia: In what has become an almost reflexive response to protests in former Soviet states, Russian messengers alleged that there were “American and Western hands” behind protests in Georgia over the passage of a foreign agent law. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev similarly suggested that there was a “well-known Hollywood hand” behind the protests. The Russian embassy’s Telegram channel also claimed that the United States’ foreign agent law passed in 1938 is more repressive than Georgia’s law, and that even if it “provided the death penalty for foreign agents, Washington would find a justification for such repressions”.

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

  • Iranian Attack on Israel: In its Monday press conference, the PRC’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) replied to a question about the Iranian attack on Israel with an equivocation about the need for “relevant parties to stay calm”. On Facebook, the MFA, as well as embassies in Sudan and Italy, highlighted the retaliatory nature of the Iranian attack and repeated the PRC’s condemnation of the earlier Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria. Xinhua quoted Iranian officials who said it acted in accordance with the UN Charter and the Global Times warned that the Israeli response “may trigger [a] dangerous cycle of retaliatory strikes”.
  • Scholz in Beijing: PRC messengers provided positive coverage of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s trip to China. After his meeting with PRC President Xi Jinping, PRC embassies around the world highlighted the two countries’ agreement on the “Ukraine crisis”, the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict”, as well as their deep economic cooperation. State media covered Scholz’s engagement with Chinese students and his admiration of a joint Sino-German hydrogen facility. Even the ultra-nationalist Global Times thought Scholz’s visit sent a “strong signal” against de-risking and resembled past visits in “the [former German Chancellor Angela] Merkel era”.

News and Commentary

Internal Russian document outlines strategy to weaken the West: A Russian Foreign Ministry document from 2023 seen by the Washington Post outlines Moscow’s strategy to weaken its Western adversaries by weaponizing domestic politics and support for Ukraine via “offensive information campaigns” and deepening partnerships with fellow authoritarian regimes, including the PRC, Iran, and North Korea. Co-Managing Director David Salvo told the Dispatch, “This article demonstrates once again that Russia’s use of hybrid tools to undermine democratic stability abroad—and exploitation of sensitive wedge issues like the war in Ukraine to exacerbate divisiveness in other countries’ bodies politic—is not the fancy of the West’s imagination. Using these tools to achieve these ends is—and has long been—part of Russian foreign policy doctrine. Reading secret documents shedding light on how the upper echelons of the Russian policy establishment perceive the need to push back against a unipolar world dominated by the United States is always illuminating. But one can also find similar sentiments throughout Russian doctrinal documents released to the public.”

Misleading content about Iran’s attack on Israel spreads across social media: Inauthentic content purporting to show Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel last Saturday went viral on social media, including footage from other conflicts and AI-generated images and videos, some of which amassed more than 37 million views and were reposted by verified X accounts, according to an investigation by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. Research Analyst Nathan Kohlenberg said, “In every recent conflict, including the Syrian Civil War, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the war between Israel and Hamas, we’ve seen misleading footage that purports to show live or very recent events. Footage can be repurposed from previous conflicts, generated with AI-based tools, or simply edited and manipulated beyond recognition. Unfortunately, under X’s current policies, it can be difficult to determine whether accounts posting videos are real journalists, state-backed propagandists, or simply fraudsters chasing clout and engagement. The result is a polluted media environment in which many users will absorb the content that confirms their worldview and discard the rest.”

In Case You Missed It

  • A pro-Russian disinformation network has been using fake Facebook accounts to purchase advertisements pushing pro-Russian narratives ahead of the European Parliament election.
  • A hacking group that has taken credit for sabotaging water utilities in the United States, Poland, and France this year is linked to Russian military intelligence, according to Mandiant.
  • AI chatbots produced by Google, Microsoft, and OpenAI have provided false information about the upcoming European Parliament election, including incorrect election dates and directions on casting a ballot, according to Democracy Reporting International.
  • Russian state-backed hackers may have accessed emails exchanged between Microsoft and US government agencies, according to the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
  • PRC diplomats have met with some US congressional staff to lobby against proposed legislation that would force the Chinese company ByteDance to sell TikTok.

ASD in the News

Quote of the Week

“What matters is that the process is maintained, our process administrators are protected, and our voters can trust the outcome of our elections at the end of the day. That’s what matters to me, regardless of who the winners and losers are.”

—Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes during an interview with Marketplace Tech published on April 16.


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