Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The G7 Rapid Response Mechanism - Protecting Democracy or the Anti-Russia Narrative?

With very little fanfare, the G7 nations (a reformatted version of the G8 thanks to Russia's alleged annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its subsequent removal from the group) have created an institution that will protect all of us who are incapable of discerning between Russian propaganda (obviously bad propaganda) from our propaganda (obviously good propaganda).  Given the name of the institution, you might think that it somehow involves the G7 assisting nations in need during emergencies but you couldn't be more wrong.

Here is the announcement about the created of the G7 Rapid Response Mechanism from the Government of Canada:

The G7 Rapid Response Mechanism or G7 RRM was created to "protect democracy" and its Coordination Unit will share information and threat analysis to better anticipate, identify and respond to threats to democracy across the G7 nations and around the globe.

Here is a quote from the final communique of the latest full meeting of the G7 regarding election meddling:

"We commit to take concerted action in responding to foreign actors who seek to undermine our democratic societies and institutions, our electoral processes, our sovereignty and our security as outlined in the Charlevoix Commitment on Defending Democracy from Foreign Threats. We recognize that such threats, particularly those originating from state actors, are not just threats to G7 nations, but to international peace and security and the rules-based international order. We call on others to join us in addressing these growing threats by increasing the resilience and security of our institutions, economies and societies, and by taking concerted action to identify and hold to account those who would do us harm."

In their Charlevoix Commitment on Defending Democracy from Foreign Threats, the leaders of the G7 had this to say:

"We, the Leaders of the G7, commit to:

1.) Respond to foreign threats, both together and individually, in order to meet the challenges facing our democracies.

2.) Strengthen G7 cooperation to prevent, thwart and respond to malign interference by foreign actors aimed at undermining the democratic processes and the national interests of a G7 state.

3.) Establish a G7 Rapid Response Mechanism to strengthen our coordination to identify and respond to diverse and evolving threats to our democracies, including through sharing information and analysis, and identifying opportunities for coordinated response.

4.) Share lessons learned and best practices in collaboration with governments, civil society and the private sector that are developing related initiatives including those that promote free, independent and pluralistic media; fact-based information; and freedom of expression.

5.) Engage directly with internet service providers and social media platforms regarding malicious misuse of information technology by foreign actors, with a particular focus on improving transparency regarding the use and seeking to prevent the illegal use of personal data and breaches of privacy.

6.) Support public learning and civic awareness aimed at promoting critical thinking skills and media literacy on intentionally misleading information, and improving online security and safety.

7.) In accordance with applicable laws, ensure a high level of transparency around sources of funding for political parties and all types of political advertising, especially during election campaigns.

I thought that Point 7 was particularly interesting given that U.S. politics is rife with "dark money" which is defined as follows:

"Dark Money refers to political spending meant to influence the decision of a voter, where the donor is not disclosed and the source of the money is unknown. Depending upon the circumstances, Dark Money can refer to funds spent by a political nonprofit or a super PAC. Here’s how:

1.) Political nonprofits are under no legal obligation to disclose their donors. When they choose not to, they are considered Dark Money groups.

2.) Super PACs can also be considered Dark Money groups in certain situations. While these organizations are legally required to disclose their donors, they can accept unlimited contributions from political non-profits and “shell” corporations who may not have disclosed their donors, in these cases they are considered Dark Money groups."

Dark money groups must publicly disclose explicit political spending but not other expenditures which can total tens of millions of dollars or more.

Let's look at one of the hosts at the G7 meeting in Charlevoix.  Ms. Chrystia Freeland is Canada's Foreign Minister and was blacklisted by Russia in March 2014 (prior to Canada's 2015 election and her appointment as the Liberal Party's Foreign Minister) for her strong criticism of Russia's "annexation" of Crimea.  At the time, she advocated for sanctions against Russia which resulted in this:

...and eventually this exchange with Maria Zakharova from Russia's Foreign Ministry:

"Question: Can you comment on the appointment of Chrystia Freeland, the new Canadian Foreign Minister, who used to criticise Russia and President Vladimir Putin in the past? When will it become possible to exclude her from the list of Canadian officials covered by Russia’s sanctions?

Maria Zakharova: The appointment of national foreign ministers is the prerogative of sovereign countries. The Canadian leaders that made this decision should be asked to clarify their motives. I don’t think this is a question for me. We have noted that Canada now has a new Foreign Minister.

Regarding our attitude towards her past critical remarks and the lack of such remarks today, we don’t know anything about her future line or priorities. I believe we need to focus on the specific actions and programmes as implemented by the Canadian Foreign Ministry. Then we can comment and take action if necessary.

Regarding excluding her from the list of officials covered by the sanctions, I would like to remind everyone that, although many headlines read that the Canadian Foreign Minister was included on the Russian sanction lists, the situation is slightly different. She got on the sanction list not as a Foreign Minister of Canada, but in 2014, as a response measure taken by the Russian side. First, Canada declared sanctions against some Russian citizens, including Russian officials. In response, Russia compiled its own list that included Ms Freeland. I believe that we need to look for an answer regarding the circumstances for excluding people from this list in the context of reciprocal and symmetrical actions."

After her travel ban was imposed, Ms. Freeland had this to say:

It's certainly reassuring to know that one of the key G7 architects of the anti-Russia movement has no bias when it comes to "messing with elections".  My guess is that anything short of a Liberal Party majority in Canada after the October 2019 election will be blamed on Russia given that this has already been put in place:

...and that Ms. Freeland and Canada's Public Safety Minster Ralph Goodale recently had this to say to the world after a meeting of the G7 foreign ministers:

It is interesting to note that Ms. Freeland is most concerned about Russia's impact on political polarization.  I hate to tell Ms. Freeland but political polarization in Canada and the United States has existed for decades, long before the concept of Russian-sourced meddling was the watchword of the day.  Just ask Albertans.

Given the anti-Russia bias that took root and has become pervasive in the West since 2014 and, in particular, since the Hillary Clinton loss in 2016 which is blamed on Russian-sourced disinformation, it is comforting to see that the unbiased leadership of the G7 is doing its best to ensure that those of us who live in vulnerable democracies are being protected from the efforts of Russia to destroy our way of life.

1 comment:

  1. A nice bitter sweet sense of irony expressed in the last paragraph after an almost tongue in cheek exposition of the topic. I'm in France waiting for the peleton to come through tomorrow. Are you watching?