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Foreign interference in democratic elections has put disinformation at the forefront of policy in Europe and the United States. The second edition of Democratic Defense Against Disinformation takes stock of how governments, multinational institutions, civil-society groups, and the private sector have responded to the disinformation challenge. As democracies have responded, our adversaries have adapted and evolved. As the speed and efficiency of influence operations increase, democratic societies need to further invest in resilience and resistance to win the new information war. Democratic Defense Against Disinformation 2.0 is a report card on efforts and a roadmap for policymakers and social media companies.


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Ukraine conducted its presidential election in accordance with democratic standards, reflected in the assessments of credible international observers. It did so despite clear Russian interference in Ukraine’s election, though the interference was not extensive enough to affect the election’s outcome or the actual voting process.

Heightened vigilance by Ukrainian authorities and civil society helped to reduce its potential impact.   In contrast to 2014, when Russian cyberattacks compromised the Central Election Commission network, Ukrainian authorities were more prepared for possible attacks in 2019. As a result, during the first and second rounds of the presidential election—despite numerous minor cyber incidents—Ukraine did not suffer a major cyberattack.

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Russian information operations are carefully curated for each country that Moscow targets. For their own citizens, Russian media describe their country as all-powerful, yet the victim of constant plots and slander. Moldovans are told a predatory European Union (EU) is impoverishing the country and tearing it from Moscow’s benevolent orbit. The message to Ukrainians is that their country is a corrupt and incompetent state ripe for an extremist coup. In Georgia, Moscow aligns itself with those who claim the EU and NATO are bent on destroying the nation’s social and religious values.

Perhaps the most important US tool for contesting these narratives, directly to the populations Moscow targets, is US international broadcasting. A far cry from the precarious shortwave operations that did battle with Soviet jammers in the Cold War, US government-funded networks now pump out content on television, radio, the web, and social networks, operating in sixty languages. Audiences in the formerly Soviet countries of Eurasia are a particular target of these services. 



This paper will look first at fundamental issues of principle and mission that continue to fuel the debate over US international media. It will then assess the broadcasters’ challenges and performance in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. The paper concludes with recommendations on USAGM operations in those four nations and on the agency’s work as a whole. The recommendations address the perpetual question of whether the networks should be a public diplomacy tool or independent news sources; the value of the networks’ individual brands; the need to make audience research a far more central element of network operations; and the importance of better preparation for worst-case scenarios.


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Given that offshore tax havens are largely located in small, independent states or self-governing territories, it could be assumed that they have little connection to OECD states and major financial centers such as London and New York. This is not the case. The so-called tax havens are in fact part of a much larger network of financial and corporate services that depends on lawyers, accountants, and bankers located in major Western cities. Only one part of the havens’ business actually involves providing lower tax rates to individual foreign account holders.

These techniques originally developed to assist American executives and Belgian dentists, and later multinational corporations, to limit their exposure— sometimes lawfully, sometimes unlawfully—to their respective tax authorities. Today, they’re increasingly deployed to flows of tainted capital from developing countries, helping those funds transit from their home jurisdictions and ultimately to the West.



There are more capital flows into the offshore world from OECD states than from developing countries. The argument of this paper, however, is that while OECD origin capital flows erode the tax base and some of the flows amount to illegal tax evasion, the overall effect of the money coming from developing countries, especially the tainted flows, is more damaging from both an economic and a security perspective.

In other words, the West, with its rule of law and creation of the Western-governed offshore economy, has given corrupt elites in developing countries the tools and capacity to avoid ever establishing the rule of law in their own countries. They are the beneficiaries of the West’s firmly-established rule of law and can leverage that advantage against their own people to ensure that they never benefit from the rule of law themselves. This is the rule of law paradox.


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Human capital is fleeing Russia. Since President Vladimir Putin’s ascent to the presidency, between 1.6 and 2 million Russians – out of a total population of 145 million – have left for Western democracies. This emigration sped up with Putin’s return as president in 2012, followed by a weakening economy and growing repressions. It soon began to look like a politically driven brain drain, causing increasing concern among Russian and international observers.

In this pioneering study, the Council’s Eurasia Center offers a clear analysis of the Putin Exodus and its implications for Russia and the West. The study, which is authored by Ambassador John Herbst and Dr. Sergei Erofeev, examines the patterns and drivers of Russian emigration to the West since 2000 based on the findings from focused interviews and surveys with new Russian émigrés in four key cities in the United States and Europe.


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“Two years ago, the Kremlin attacked the United States through a coordinated influence operation targeting the 2016 presidential elections,” writes Dr. Alina Polyakova in The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses 3.0: Russian Influence in Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, a new report from the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. Following successful installments on Russian influence in France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, the report examines Russian efforts to establish a political presence in Northern Europe.

This report is the final installment of a three-year-long project that sought to expose a less often discussed element of the Kremlin’s political warfare: the cultivation of political allies in Europe’s core. The aim of the project is to draw attention to Western Europe, where for far too long the Russian threat was either dismissed, ignored, or overlooked. As is now known, the Kremlin’s tentacles do not stop in Ukraine, Georgia, or East Central Europe. They reach far and deep in the core of western societies. Acknowledging the ongoing threat is the first step to countering its effects and building long-term resilience.
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Territories between great powers—borderlands—have always been areas of strife. So it is with the countries caught between Russia and the West, those that were once part of the Soviet Union or firmly within its sphere of influence. Much of Europe has consolidated and, with the United States, established a lasting liberal democratic order, but Russia has been increasingly pushing back. Though most of the “borderlands” countries are now West-facing, Moscow wants to control at least the national security policies of its near neighbors.

The West should reject Moscow’s claim. It contradicts Western principles and is dangerous to our interests. The United States should lead the West in adopting an explicit strategy of promoting democracy, open markets, and the right of nations to choose their own foreign policy and alignments. This includes their right, if they meet the conditions, to join the EU and NATO.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s persistent efforts to influence the domestic politics of his neighbors and countries well beyond Russia’s borders have posed enormous challenges in Europe and across the Atlantic. More than any other country, Ukraine has been the unwanted recipient of Moscow’s attention, particularly during the past five years. The Kremlin has sought to place a pliable client in command in Kyiv and block Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, including by pressuring the previous Ukrainian leadership against signing. The March 2019 presidential election will be a pivotal event in Ukraine’s history.
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International political dark money is a crucial, but little-understood, part of a toolkit of techniques that have been used, with accelerating intensity, to influence major liberal democracies and transition states over the last decade. Using three concrete case studies, this report outlines the active threat of dark money in the context of hostile powers’ subversion operations, explains how current legislation and enforcement mechanisms are inadequate, and proposes a “layered defense.”
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The Republic of Moldova, a sliver of land bordering the European Union (EU) and NATO’s eastern edge, finds itself at a critical crossroads twenty-seven years after gaining independence from the Soviet Union. Eager to forge closer ties with Brussels and Washington, the government has made concerted efforts to bring the country closer in line with the West’s expectations and conditions required for a strong ally and partner. Genuine progress has been made over the past couple of years and the country has achieved financial and economic stability with the support of its development partners; it has reached over 4 percent economic growth, lowered inflation, fixed huge problems in the banking sector, and replaced Russia with the EU as its main trading partner.


    

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