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Our Takes

Russian influence operations in the United States aim to use US political chaos to elevate voices from the “fringes of the political debate to the mainstream”, Co-Managing Director David Salvo told AP News.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • Trump’s Trial: The Kremlin responded to former US President Donald Trump’s conviction for falsifying business records by claiming that “it’s obvious to everyone…that US political rivals are being eliminated by all available methods”. State media outlets also amplified criticism from Trump allies who called the process a “sham show trial”, alleged that US President Joe “Biden uses the justice system as a weapon”, and suggested that Trump might be assassinated before the election. Some outlets took issue with Biden’s “insidious” smile in response to a press conference question about the verdict, which suggested will be “in your nightmares”.
  • Zelenskyy’s Legitimacy: Monitored Russian accounts, mirroring comments made by Russian President Vladimir Putin, again questioned whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is the “legitimate” leader of Ukraine due to the decision to postpone presidential elections in the country due to the war. Russian state media referenced the popular TV show Game of Thrones to suggest that Zelenskyy is “clinging to power” and amplified pro-Russian voices calling Zelenskyy an “imposter”. RT Deutsch depicted Zelenskyy, whom they referred to as a “comedian”, as a clown in a Facebook post that stated that the Ukrainian president “simply usurped power with Western help” and that “even if Moscow were to [a] sign peace [treaty] with him, there is no guarantee that his legitimate alliance will be successful”.

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

  • Zelenskyy’s Criticism of Beijing: Zelenskyy’s accusation in Singapore that Beijing is pressuring third countries not to attend the upcoming peace conference in Switzerland put PRC messengers in a tight spot. When asked about Russia “using Chinese influence and Chinese diplomats” to disrupt the summit, the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) replied that “China is still Ukraine’s largest trading partner”. The MFA also told Turkish state news agency Anadolu that “there is no such thing as China pressuring other countries”. And while CGTN focused on Zelenskyy’s calls for the United States to do more, the Global Times commented that the Ukrainian leader “should be grateful that China has not taken sides with Russia”.
  • EU Trade War? PRC messaging is growing increasingly hawkish toward the EU as the bloc moves closer to imposing tariffs on imported Chinese electric vehicles. The PRC Minister of Commerce dismissed the EU process as “typical trade protectionism” while the MFA hoped that the Europeans would remain committed “to supporting free trade”. Xinhua quoted several German ministers to conclude that “trade wars only know losers”. PRC state media also published a video in which a European expert explained that the “EU doesn’t automatically follow” the United States. The Global Times also suggested that “the root of the rise in protectionism and trade hostility actually lies in the” United States.

News and Commentary

Russian hackers publish fake report about a Polish mobilization in Ukraine: European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová warned that France, Germany, and Poland have become “permanent” targets of Russian disinformation in the run-up to the European Parliament elections, days after Russian hackers published a fake news report on Poland’s national news agency claiming that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was mobilizing 200,000 Poles to fight in Ukraine. Senior Manager for Europe and Fellow Vassilis Ntousas told the Dispatch,Clearly feeling liberated since she is not seeking re-election, Vice President Jourová is turning the spotlight on key trends and threats undermining European democracy. This is only the latest of a stream of remarks that reveal alarming trends, but are hardly surprising. The last few months alone have seen the surfacing of an atypically large number of interference-related incidents and scandals across the EU and beyond. And with the shadow of the war in Ukraine still over the continent and European elections just days from now, it is no wonder that this is happening. For Russia and other bad actors, democracy is the enemy. Remarks like this from Jourová rightly raise awareness of how aggressive these efforts are.”

Israeli government runs influence operation targeting US lawmakers, public: Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs hired a political marketing firm to conduct an online influence campaign targeting US lawmakers and the American public starting last October, managing hundreds of fake accounts across X, Facebook, and Instagram pretending to belong to real Americans, using ChatGPT to generate content, and creating three fake English-language news sites. Co-Managing Director David Salvo said, “This story points both to the proliferation of nation-state actors engaging in malign influence operations beyond just Russia and the PRC and to the privatization of the information manipulation enterprise. For-profit actors have figured out how to monetize information manipulation, and regardless of whether their operations are impactful or not, they’re making money. We’re also seeing this in how seemingly private online media outlets are simply republishing Russian, PRC, and other state media articles, with or without attribution, generating an increasing number of clicks through search engine optimization, and presumably generating revenue through ad buys as a result.”

TikTok approves EU election disinformation-laden ads submitted by NGO: TikTok failed the investigative non-profit Global Witness’ disinformation test weeks before the European Parliament election, approving all 16 advertisements submitted by the organization that contained false information about Irish electoral processes; YouTube identified 14 of 16 advertisements, while X filtered all 16 and suspended the organization’s fake accounts. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer said, “This study doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence in TikTok’s ability to prevent electoral interference on its platform, which is particularly worrying given that political campaigns are increasingly turning to the platform to reach younger voters. Beyond the obvious headlines about TikTok’s failures, this study also shows the real need for outside researchers to continue to stress test and audit tech platforms to hold them to account for violating EU laws and their own policies.”

In Case You Missed It

  • Russian influence operations have used artificial intelligence (AI) in information campaigns targeting the 2024 Paris Olympics, including false claims about threats of violence at the games and impersonations of celebrities, according to Microsoft.
  • Election officials in Washington, DC have been bombarded with menacing calls and emails from people criticizing the city’s law allowing non-US citizens to vote in local elections, contributing to a tense environment for election workers.
  • PRC and Indian officials allegedly interfered in more than one Conservative Party of Canada leadership race, according to a Canadian intelligence committee’s report.
  • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock blamed a Russian military-linked hacking group for a large-scale cyberattack that targeted the country’s Christian Democratic Union party and forced it to temporarily take parts of its network offline.
  • A Russian state-backed legal foundation financed several pro-Kremlin propaganda websites in Europe, as well as legal defenses for Russian arms dealers and assassins.

ASD in the News

The D Brief: US, allies OK Ukrainian deep strikes; Houthi targets, struck; SECDEF meets Chinese counterpart; Navy wants more tech contests; And a bit more. ASD research/Information Laundromat quoted in Defense One’s The D Brief

`We the People’ are bulwarks against Russian disinformation. ASD research/Hamilton 2.0 Dashboard quoted in George W. Bush Presidential Center

Quote of the Week

“We need to protect this election process and more broadly European public debate from malign foreign actors, who want Europe to fail.”


—Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in a blog post published on June 3.

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