Policy Roundup: April 2022

Key policy takeaways from Larry Diamond on the future of democracy; Rose Gottemoeller on the West, Russia and nukes; Kathryn Stoner on Putin and Kremlin tensions; Michael McFaul on the West and Putin’s threats; Francis Fukuyama on illiberalism on the left and right; Renée DiResta on LinkedIn and deepfakes; and Michelle Mello on COVID misinformation.

Defending Democracy

We Have Entered a New Historical Era
Larry Diamond, Mosbacher Senior Fellow in Global Democracy
Presentation to FSI Council, 4/11/22

  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the rising tide of authoritarian power projections around the world represent the return of great power competition.
  • The U.S. and NATO must do everything possible to arm and assist Ukraine militarily, and to punish Russia financially and economically.
  • The U.S. must wage a more effective and comprehensive battle of information and ideas to expose Russia’s mendacity and criminality, both in the court of public opinion and ways that reach individual Russians.
  • We must perform more effectively as democracies to meet the challenges of developing and harnessing new technologies, creating new jobs, and reducing inequalities.
  • To win the technological race, we must open our doors more widely to the best talent from all over the world – and we need immigration reform.


West, Russia Mull Nuclear Steps in a ‘More Dangerous World
Rose Gottemoeller, Steven C. Házy Lecturer at CISAC
Associated Press, 4/2/22

  • The outlines that President Joe Biden has provided so far of his nuclear policy stick with those of past administrations in using atomic weapons only in “extreme circumstances.”
  • A single Russian nuclear use demonstration strike, would rise to that level of demanding a U.S. nuclear response. 
  • While Ukraine's surrendering of its Soviet nuclear arsenal in 1994 opened the door for three decades of international integration and growth, some nations may now believe they need nuclear bombs as a matter of survival.
  • Putin’s statements about “cancel culture” suggests he is vulnerable to world condemnation over his Ukraine invasion.

Putin’s Rationale and Tensions in the Kremlin
Kathryn Stoner, Mosbacher Director of CDDRL
CNN, 4/1/22

  • Putin has a different perspective on human nature and the world than we have in the West.
  • Putin is depicting a corrupt Western cabal with designs to manipulate Russia.
  • He misjudged the Ukrainian response to the Russia invasion due to his world view and flawed intelligence, which happens in an authoritarian system where people are afraid to tell a leader the truth.
  • Tensions exist between Putin and with the ministers of defense and intelligence, and it’s dangerous for advisors to present accurate intelligence.
  • The war effort is not going well for the Russians because they are somewhat continuing peace talks and perhaps looking for a Plan B.

The West Shouldn’t Back Down in the Face of Putin's Threats
Michael McFaul, FSI Director
Washington Post, 4/13/22

  • Ukraine still needs help from the West as the conflict heats up in the Donbas region — and the West must respond without caving to Russian threats.
  • This next phase of the war will differ sharply from the one before it. The flat steppes of the east will make it harder for the Ukrainians to use the hit-and-run tactics that have served them so well until now. Now they have an urgent need for tanks, artillery.
  • Putin’s escalating rhetoric and nuclear threats are a bluff, and he is deliberately allowing the U.S. intelligence community to discover data about escalation in order to scare us away from helping Ukrainians win.
  • If Russia used tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, it would not only further alienate him from world, but China as well.
  • Putin is highly unlikely to attack the largest military alliance in the world, anchored by the most powerful military in the world, the United States. Putin is angry and unhinged, but not suicidal.

Classical Liberalism

Moderation in the Name of Liberty is No Vice
Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow
Washington Monthly, 4/3/22

  • Classical liberalism represents a big tent that encompasses a range of political views that nonetheless agree on the foundational importance of equal individual rights, law, and freedom.
  • Liberalism is designed to solve the problems of governing a diversity of people without force and constant war. 
  • Classical liberalism is under sustained attack from both the populist right and the identity-based left. 
  • The internal excesses of liberalism itself helped produce these illiberal countermovements that now threaten democracies from within and without.
  • Yet while there may be real deficiencies in liberal thinking, liberalism itself is the only proven political framework for protecting human freedom and ensuring rights in diverse societies with people of different beliefs and backgrounds.


Your latest LinkedIn contact may be an AI-generated deepfake
Renée DiResta, Research Manager, Stanford Internet Observatory
The Times, 4/11/22

  • A Stanford Observatory study found more than 1,000 accounts with AI-generated faces across LinkedIn. They were not scammers or phishers seeking to defraud people, but mostly sales firms offering to drum up business for legitimate companies.
  • This allows sales companies to send a large number of messages without needing to hire extra staff and without breaching the messaging limit imposed by LinkedIn.
  • If someone responds to one of their messages, they are connected to a real employee who tries to secure their business.
  • Some companies want to automate away the manual labor of making all those phone calls or sending all those messages.
  • Spotting deepfakes requires zooming in on the picture so some obvious flaws are revealed in the person's appearance.

Health Misinformation

California’s Medical ‘Misinformation’ Crusade Could Cost Lives
Michelle Mello, Core Faculty at SHP
Wall Street Journal, 4/20/22

  • Vaccine misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic underscores how reverence for freedom of speech in the US intensifies our vulnerability to public health threats.
  • The Supreme Court’s attachment to a particular conception of free speech rights limits the government’s ability to impose speech restrictions.
  • State medical boards should consider suspending the licenses of physicians whose statements constitute unprofessional conduct, which could include “misinformation” as they define it.
  • While some other countries have criminalized the spread of vaccine misinformation, the thrust of the US government’s response is to disseminate accurate vaccine information and hope it corrects misconceptions.

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