Forum Focus: July 2022

A monthly newsletter from the National Endowment for Democracy‘s International Forum for Democratic Studies on issues related to democracy around the world.


Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the International Forum for Democratic Studies at NED has convened and published in ways that deepen understanding of the informational, kleptocratic, technological, and authoritarian challenges to democracy. We brought together top researchers and civil society activists from Ukraine and elsewhere in the region and in Washington, DC to identify trends and emerging challenges for Ukraine’s democratic future in the face of Russia’s multi-faceted malign influence. Recent illustrations include:
Many in the world responded to Russia’s aggression with unprecedented solidarity. The International Forum published a Big Question asking leading experts: How Can the International Community Expand Democratic Solidarity Following Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine?
  • In response, sanctions quickly emerged, calls to stand with Ukraine circulated widely in online spaces, and blue and yellow flags flew in parliaments and homes worldwide.
  • However, competing global challenges and fatigue from the conflict has called into question democracies’ ability to sustain support for Ukraine and the principles this solidarity represents.

In the latest from the Power 3.0 blog, the International Forum published several stories related to Russia, propaganda networks, and the effectiveness of sanctions against Russian oligarchs:
  • Crude Accountability’s Kate Watters writes that after Russia invaded Ukraine, western governments moved swiftly to sanction many Russian oligarchs and corporations, but many have largely failed to stymie Russia’s oligarchs from amassing incredible wealth for themselves and their ultimate benefactor, Vladimir Putin.
  • Claudia Flores-Saviaga of Northeastern University and Deyra Guerrero of VerificadoMX analyze how Russian state-backed media outlets on Latin American social media channels in concert with Russian embassies and consulates, actively worked to spread disinformation about the invasion of Ukraine.
  • Marc Owen Jones of Hamad bin Khalifah University argues that networks of fake Twitter accounts, and other forms of social media, work to spread content that amplify a variety of pro-Beijing, pro-Moscow, antidemocratic, and anti-Western narratives.

The International Forum convened an interdisciplinary group of experts and civil society activists in Prague last month to discuss responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with top information and technology experts and civil society organizations.
  • As part of the discussion, participants had the opportunity to meet with representatives from RFE/RL at their Prague headquarters to discuss disinformation challenges related to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Also, the Journal of Democracy published an online exclusive in which Ambassador Daniel Fried argues that as Russia continues its ongoing invasion, “those who believe in the principal values of the free world – democracy, the rule of law, and liberalism broadly defined – believe that with time comes progress,” however, we can no longer assume that will be the case.
  • While tyrants and authoritarian rules from China and elsewhere work against democratic progress, it is still worth pursuing democratic alliances around the world.

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