Mueller indictments so far: Lies, trolls and hacks; smaller democracies & Russian meddling; targeting “deep fakes,” and more

Smaller democracies grapple with the threat of Russian interference (David Shimer, New Yorker)
Electoral interference in the digital age—against any open society—is naturally appealing for Vladimir Putin. In a 2013 article, Valery Gerasimov, a top Russian general, described a modern strategy of hybrid warfare that would make “broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other non-military measures”—in other words, actions that fall within the gray zone between war and peace. Through such actions, Russia can weaken or unseat democratic competitors without declaring war, putting soldiers at risk, or spending much money. A Spanish representative to the E.U told me that Spain has detected “constant attempts by the Russians” to covertly meddle in its politics. Arild Heiestad, a Norwegian brigadier general and a deputy military representative to NATO, said that Russian interference is omnipresent. “If you look around the Baltics,” he said, “it’s their everyday life.” David Cohen, who served as the deputy director of the C.I.A. between 2015 and 2017, said that Russia’s meddling in other countries foreshadowed its operation against America’s 2016 election. “We’ve seen Russian interference in Europe for the past ten years. We saw identical techniques: stolen information, misinformation, all of that, in a variety of countries . . . and one of the things we did not do as well as we should have was sound the alarm,” Cohen told me in his Washington, D.C., office. “We didn’t do a good enough job of better preparing ourselves, of saying, ‘The Russians did that there, so there is no reason to think they’re not going to do the same thing here.’”
Earlier this year, Juan Manuel Santos, then the President of Colombia, gave Enrique Peña Nieto, his counterpart in Mexico, an urgent warning: he had reviewed intelligence suggesting that Russia was planning to interfere in both of their countries’ upcoming national elections. (Both Santos and Peña Nieto were term-limited, and therefore ineligible for reëlection.) “We received a lot of warnings that this was going to happen,” Santos told me over breakfast. “I took tremendous care and gave pertinent orders to investigate . . . and even had some foreign intelligence services help us.” After Colombia’s election—which saw the rise of a right-wing populist—Santos found no concrete evidence of Russian meddling. Nor was he aware of any evidence of interference in Mexico’s election, in which a left-wing, anti-establishment figure rose to power. “Again, the Mexicans could not prove it,” he said. But Santos, whose term ended in August, remains unsettled. He recognizes that Russian meddling could have occurred undetected in both countries, and wonders whether he left Colombia equipped with the tools it needs to defend its sovereignty. “I hope I did,” Santos said. “But I can’t control that, because technology advances so fast. Russia is more interested in maintaining the disorder than anything else . . . Fake news and social media, the way it’s designed, encourages and strengthens polarization.”
Since 2016, Trump has both dismissed the threat of electoral interference and sent mixed signals about America’s commitment to NATO’s Article V provision of collective defense. In July, he questioned why the U.S. should enter into “World War III” to protect Montenegro. “That statement did worry me at that particular moment,” Milo Djukanovic, the former prime minister of Montenegro, said. Smaller countries lack the resources to push back against Russia—whether economically or in the cyber domain—leaving open the question of how America should respond. Santos, the sole recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016, emphasized that he would prefer no foreign intervention take place at all. However, he suggested that if Russia continues to interfere in foreign elections, the U.S. should respond in kind. “If you are having—in very weak countries—the interference of a world power that has certain values that I don’t share, I would prefer that the power that does have the values that I share to help neutralize what is happening,” he said, when asked whether America should covertly assist leaders targeted by Moscow.
During the Cold War, to prevent the spread of communism, the U.S was quick to meddle in the affairs of foreign countries. In 1948, it funneled millions of dollars to Italy’s Christian Democratic Party, which then decisively defeated the Communist Party. “We bought the election,” Donald Gregg, a C.I.A. operative during the early Cold War who later served as national-security adviser to Vice-President George H. W. Bush, told me. “It’s a classic example of how really interfering in another country’s political system can pay off, if you’re convinced that it needs to be done, as we were.” Often, American meddling led to destructive results, particularly in Latin America. In Guatemala, for instance, the C.I.A. sponsored a coup, in 1954, that deposed a democratically elected President and resulted in a military dictatorship. A decades-long civil war followed, in which an estimated two hundred thousand people died.

Russia undermines the European order(Stanislaw Zaryn, American Thinker)
Poland, Europe, and NATO have all been targeted by Russian information attacks. Moscow has been mastering the methods of covert aggression for years, bringing down the levels of security in many European countries, and particularly in the Central and Eastern European countries (CEE). The strengthening of NATO’s Eastern Flank would serve to curtail Russia’s influence over the region. Therefore, the Kremlin has intensified its aggressive activities. This was particularly visible during this year’s edition of the Anakonda military exercise, a key training event for Polish Armed Forces  with a high participation of allied countries and organizations.

Russia linked to hacking of anti-propaganda initiative (Lucy Fisher, Times) British intelligence officers are investigating a hack into a government-funded program that counters Russian propaganda, The Times understands.
The National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ, has launched an inquiry into digital breaches several weeks ago of the Institute for Statecraft.
Russian media said last month that the hacker collective Anonymous had obtained documents from the Integrity Initiative — an anti-disinformation programme run by the institute — that proved it was part of a hybrid warfare project to interfere in other countries.

Russian influence in the media sectors of the Black Sea countries: Tools, narratives and policy options for building resilience (Rumena Filipova and Todor Galev, Disinfo Portal)
The Black Sea region has been on the frontlines of Russia’s intensifying effort at revising the post-Cold War European regional as well as international order through the application of a variety of hard- and soft power instruments. A recently published report by the Center for the Study of Democracy, titled Russian Influence in the Media Sectors of the Black Sea Countries. Tools, Narratives and Policy Options for Building Resilience, explores the soft power dimension of Russian strategies for influence as related to the Kremlin’s dissemination of media propaganda and disinformation.

Denigrating Ukraine with disinformation (EU vs Disinfo)
As the confrontation around the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait has escalated, so has the disinformation as well as the rhetoric denigrating Ukrainians and their country in Russian state-controlled media. Denigrating language can, however, also include disinformation; one does not exclude the other.