Kremlin Watch Briefing: The SNP calling for a reform to clean up UK’s politics

Topics of the Week

The Scottish National Party is calling for a reform to clean up UK’s politics.

Russia and North Korea hacked COVID-19 vaccines.

Kremlin’s Current Narrative: Russia as the balancer of Europe.

Good Old Soviet Joke

A frightened man came to the KGB: “My talking parrot disappeared.”

“This is not our case. Go to the criminal police.”

“Excuse me. Of course, I know that I have to go to them. I am here just to tell you officially that I disagree with that parrot.”

Policy & Research News

Russia and North Korea hacked COVID-19 vaccines

Microsoft security experts reported that Russian and North Korean hackers attempted cyberattacks against the companies developing coronavirus vaccine.

Launched attack targeted pharmaceutical companies and vaccine developers in the U.S., Canada, India, France and South Korea, however, the Microsoft managed to prevent and block the most of cyber disruption. The malign activities were attributed to the three groups Strontium, a unit of Russia’s military intelligence agency (‘Cozy Bear’) and two other groups, the Lazarus Group and Cerim backed up by North Korea.

Earlier in July, UK’s National Cyber Security Centre together with the U.S. and Canada reported that Russia tried to steal data from academic and pharmaceutical institutions around the world which are involved in the vaccine and treatment development. The same month the U.S. blamed China-sponsored hackers for targeting labs engaged with the Covid-19 vaccine development.

Assertive states keep exploiting the cyberspace to steal classified data or disrupt to fulfil their foreign policy goals. The EU and NATO should take a more outwardly nuanced approach to strengthen cyber resilience, and prevent future state-sponsored cyber-attacks, as well as ‘guilty states’ should be held accountable for cybercrimes. 

The Scottish National Party calling for a reform to clean up UK’s politics

The SNP is about to submit a major document highlighting the shortcomings of the UK Government’s Integrated Review (IR) of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. Defence spokesman Stewart McDonald MP highlighted that omnipresent non-military threat, such as cyber-attacks or disinformation is the current defensive gaps. Therefore, the SNP stated that it is necessary to launch a democratic reform to clean up the UK politics inside as a part of securing defence strategy priorities. 

The UK government should cover current gaps, as it is evident that they are not immune to the novel sophisticated menaces, as it is found by the “Russia Report”. The recently released “Russia Report’ prepared by the Intelligence and Security Committee, warned on Kremlin’s meddling. The Nationalists called Tories for conducting the proper investigation over Kremlin’s intrusive activities. The report cast a light that the UK government downplayed the threat of Kremlin and therefore failed to respond to Russian interference in the UK’s democracy.

US Developments

Liberal Chinese Americans Are Fighting Right-Wing WeChat Disinformation

Liberal Chinese Americans are fighting back against pro-Trump disinformation on the popular messaging app WeChat. Right-wing conspiracy content has been shared across hundreds of thousands of chat groups on the app amid both the 2020 and 2016 elections. Unlike in 2016, however, countervailing liberal forces have taken to the app fight against the conspiracy theories that claim that the election was a fraud and that Hunter Biden is a paedophile. Among the chief sources of disinformation is a media network associated with the billionaire Guo Wengui and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon.

US Department of State Global Engagement Center on Russia’s International Disinformation Network

Since 2010, Russia has worked to construct a global disinformation website network to spread anti-Western conspiracy materials often under the guise of research or news. According to the GEC, Russian authorities “have signed dozens of content sharing agreements between Russian-state-controlled media outlets such as RT and Sputnik and media outlets in other countries, including China, India, Iran, Indonesia, and many others” since 2014. Many of these sites host anti-American and anti-Western materials authored by the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, or GRU.

Kremlin’s Current Narrative

Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh – President Vladimir Putin plays a key role and Russia should be recognized as the balancer of Europe

On November 10 Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia have signed a cease-fire agreement at least for now putting to an end the conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. While doubts remain regarding the finality of peace, Russian media salute the Russian peacemakers deployed in the region and the role of Vladimir Putin in concluding the negotiations.

The Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov pointed out that Vladimir Putin played a key role in the peace settlement, with “days of intensive, sometimes round the clockwork” with both conflicting parties. On top of that, the peace in the region, as well as safety and future of its inhabitants, are now guaranteed solely by Russian peacekeepers.

In an interview with RT, Mr Peskov also highlighted that Moscow promoted the formulas for conflict management in Nagorno-Karabakh for many years even before its recent peak. Therefore, the role of Russia in the settlement of the conflict was practically natural. He added, however, that the consensual claims of three presidents – Putin, Trump and Macron, played a major role in stimulating the peace talks. Nevertheless, nothing could be done until the parties to the conflict had requested the direct intervention of Vladimir Putin.

On the other hand, there is some degree of surprise over the fact that now the United States and France are requesting more information about the agreement of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia since from the beginning of negotiations, close communication was upheld with the Minsk Group of OSCE. It must be thus “lack of awareness or a misunderstanding” from the side of Western leaders.

The overall “victory” for the Russian influence in the region has produced a broader view of the role of Moscow as “the Balancer of Europe.” According to the article by RT, it has been many years that Moscow is suggesting various solutions to the problem of terrorism in Europe (no references given by the source), and it would settle the conflict in Belarus much better than Europe (again, not specified how). “The language of sanctions” that Europe has been speaking up to this point is, sadly, neglecting the balancing powers of Russia that could help make the world a “beautiful place.”

Kremlin Watch is a strategic program of the European Values Center for Security Policy, which aims to expose and confront instruments of Russian influence and disinformation operations focused against the liberal-democratic system.