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Putin using Moscow attack as excuse to intensify war on Ukraine
Putin using Moscow attack as excuse to intensify war on Ukraine | Ian Bremmer | Quick Take

Putin using Moscow attack as excuse to intensify war on Ukraine

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

A Quick Take to kick off your week. Lots we could be talking about. But I want to go to Russia, where we have had a major terrorist attack with over 130 Russian citizens gunned down, killed by terrorists.

The United States has warned the Russians both publicly so that American citizens would know about the concern, but also with actionable intelligence privately over the past couple of weeks that ISIS was planning an attack on an area with major crowds in Moscow. Putin publicly dismissing that, kind of wish he hadn't, but that we are where we are. And Putin has now spoken to the nation. There have been a number of gunmen that have been rounded up and arrested four, that we know of, Tajik citizens and Putin did not mention that ISIS has taken credit for this terrorist attack, nor that they then released videos of some of the attackers as they were engaging in terrorism inside the rock concert venue.

Instead, he spoke implausibly about links to Ukraine that don't actually exist. Why would ISIS-K do this? I mean, the main reason is because one of their two home bases, Syria and Iraq, in Syria, destroyed by Bashar al-Assad with the direct help from Putin and the Russian military. Nobody else doing that with Assad on the ground. And there have been many terrorist attempts against Russians as a consequence in that regard, but none with spectacular success for them like we've just witnessed.

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Greece's PM on NATO, Navalny, and the wake-up call to Europe
Greece's PM on NATO, Navalny, and the wake-up call to Europe | GZERO World

Greece's PM on NATO, Navalny, and the wake-up call to Europe

Greece, the world’s oldest democracy, is undergoing a major digital, economic, and social transformation era. Ian Bremmer sat down with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to discuss global security, the threat of AI in elections, and Greece’s landmark ruling allowing same-sex couples to marry.

With the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looming large, Mitsotakis stressed the importance of continuing to send financial and military aid to Kyiv and for Europe to increase its own defense spending. NATO allies have committed to spending at least 2% of their GDP on defense, but only 18 of the 31 NATO countries currently meet this goal. Mitsotakis says it’s high time for all NATO countries to step up.
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How to protect elections in the age of AI
VOD - Munich 2024: Protecting Elections in the Age of AI

How to protect elections in the age of AI

Half of the world’s population will have the chance to head to the polls this year in dozens of critical elections worldwide. These votes, which will shape policy and democracy for years to come, come amid light-speed development in artificial intelligence. As Eurasia Group noted in its 2024 Top Risk entitled “Ungoverned AI,” generative AI could be used by domestic and foreign actors – we’re looking at you, Russia – to impact campaigns and undermine trust in democracy.

To meet the moment, GZERO Media, on the ground at the 2024 Munich Security Conference, held a Global Stage discussion on Feb. 17 entitled “Protecting Elections in the Age of AI.” We spoke with Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft; Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media; Fiona Hill, senior fellow for the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings; Eva Maydell, an EU parliamentarian and a lead negotiator of the EU Chips Act and Artificial Intelligence Act; Kersti Kaljulaid, the former president of Estonia; with European correspondent Maria Tadeo moderating. The program also featured interviews with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister, and Benedikt Franke, CEO and vice-chair of the Munich Security Conference. These thought leaders and experts discussed the implications of the rapid rise of AI amid this historic election year.

The group started by delving into what Bremmer has referred to as the “Voldemort” of years surrounding elections, to look at how election interference and disinformation have evolved since 2016.

“This is the year that people have been very concerned about, but have kind of hoped that they could push off. It's not just because there are elections all over the world and trust in institutions is deteriorating, it's also because the most powerful country in the world, and it's not becoming less powerful, is also one of the most politically dysfunctional,” says Bremmer, referring to the US.

The 2024 US presidential election “is maximally distrust-laden,” says Bremmer, adding that it’s “really hard to have a free and fair election in the US that all of its population” believes is legitimate.

And the worry is that AI could complicate the landscape even further.

Hill agreed that there’s cause for concern but underscored that people should not “panic” to a point where they’re “paralyzed” and “not taking action.”

“Panic is not an option given the stakes,” says Hill, adding, “There are negative aspects of all of this, but there's also the kind of question that we have to grapple with is how when legitimate competitors or opposition movements that otherwise beleaguered decide to use AI tools, that then also has an impact.”

There’s no doubt that AI can be used for nefarious purposes. Deepfakes can fool even the most discerning eye. Disinformation has already been rampant across the internet in recent election cycles and helped sow major divisions in many countries well before AI tools — far more sophisticated than your average meme — were widely available.

“With new tools and products that use generative AI, including from a company like ours, somebody can create a very realistic video, audio, or image. Just think about the different ways it can be used. Somebody can use it and they can make a video of themself, and they can make clear in the video that this is AI generated. That is one way a political candidate, even one who is in prison can speak,” says Smith, alluding to ex-Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent use of AI from behind bars.

Along these lines, there are many serious, valid concerns about the impact AI can have on elections and democracy more generally — particularly at a time when people are exhibiting rising levels of distrust in key institutions.

“It's very important to acknowledge a lot of the important developments that AI and emerging tech can bring to support our economic development,” says Maydell, adding, “but in the same time, especially this year, we need to be very sober about some of those threats that are in a way threatening the very fabric of our democratic societies.

As Maydell noted, this evolving new technology can be harnessed for good and bad. Can AI be used as a tool to protect candidates and the integrity of the electoral process?

A number of major tech companies, including Microsoft, signed an accord at the Munich Security Conference on Friday to help thwart and combat AI-related election interference.

“It's all about trying to put ourselves in a position, not to solve this problem completely, I don't think that's possible, but to manage this new reality in a way that will make a difference,” says Smith. The Microsoft president says the accord brings the tech sector together to preserve the authenticity of content, including by working to detect deepfakes and providing candidates with a mechanism to report any that are created about them.

“We'll work together to promote transparency and public education. This clearly is going to require a lot of work with civil society, with others around the world to help the public be ready,” says Smith.

But is enough being done?

“It's good that both politicians and the companies and society as a whole now has a better understanding where this is all leading us and we are collectively taking actions,” says Kaljulaid, but this is just a “first step” and “next steps need to follow.”

A balance will need to be found between legislating the challenges presented by AI and giving tech companies space to collaborate, innovate and address problems on their own.

“Democracy is always in jeopardy. Every generation has to answer the call to defend it,” says Smith, adding, “Now it's our turn. It's our turn as a generation of people to say that technology always changes, but democracy is a value that we hold timeless. So let's do what it takes to defend it, to preserve and promote it.”

The livestream was part of the Global Stage series, produced by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft. These discussions convene heads of state, business leaders, and technology experts from around the world for critical debate about the geopolitical and technology trends shaping our world.

Why Greek PM Mitsotakis pushed for same-sex marriage despite strong opposition
Why Greece PM Mitsotakis defied the opposition to push for same-sex marriage | GZERO World

Why Greek PM Mitsotakis pushed for same-sex marriage despite strong opposition

On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer asked Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for his reaction to Greece becoming the first Orthodox Christian country to legalize same-sex civil marriage. Greece’s parliament voted 176-76 to approve the legislation, which also legalizes adoption for same-sex families, despite opposition from the influential Greek Orthodox Church and from within Mitsotakis’ own center-right New Democracy party.

“I knew from the beginning that there are a lot of people within my party that did not agree with this,” Mitsotakis tells Bremmer, “But at the end of the day, human rights is about protecting smaller groups. Otherwise, you have the tyranny of the majority.”

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Former Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks to supporters outside his New Democracy party's headquarters in Athens.

REUTERS/Louiza Vradi

Mitsotakis wins big in Greece

The ruling center-right New Democracy Party of PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis is projected to win Sunday's second-round Greek election with 40.5% of the vote. That gives Mitsotakis an outright majority of 158 seats in the 300-member parliament, enough to form a government.

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Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis addresses supporters during a pre-election rally by the island of Salamina.

REUTERS/Louiza Vradi

Where We’re Voting: Greece, Guatemala, Sierra Leone

Got any weekend plans? You should be headed to the polls if you live in Greece, Guatemala, or Sierra Leone.

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Pakistani Hassan Ali shows a photo of his brother who died in a shipwreck off the Greek coast.

REUTERS/Louiza Vradi

Who’s responsible for the Greek migrant tragedy?

Nine alleged people smugglers have been arrested in Greece after hundreds of migrants drowned last week in one of the worst migrant tragedies in Europe in over a decade. The men, all Egyptian nationals, appeared in court Tuesday, while a handful of others were reportedly also arrested in Pakistan, where most of the victims came from.

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Gang members wait to be taken to their cell after 2000 gang members were transferred to the Terrorism Confinement Center, in Tecoluca, El Salvador. Handout distributed March 15, 2023.

Secretaria de Prensa de la Presidencia/Handout via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: El Salvador’s lingering state of emergency, Northern Ireland on alert, Alibaba’s breakup, Greek election matters

El Salvador’s state of emergency one year later

This week marks one year since El Salvador’s bullish millennial president, Nayib Bukele, introduced a state of emergency, enabling his government to deal with the scourge of gang violence that has long made his country one of the world’s most dangerous.

Quick recap: To crack down on the country’s 70,000 gang members, Bukele’s government denied alleged criminals the right to know why they were detained and access to legal counsel. The arrest blitz has seen nearly 2% of the adult population locked up.

Despite these draconian measures and Bukele’s efforts to circumvent a one-term limit, he enjoys a staggering 91% approval rating.

Bukele has also sought to distinguish himself as an anti-corruption warrior, which resonates with an electorate disillusioned by years of corrupt politicians (Bukele’s three predecessors have all been charged with corruption. One is in prison; two are on the run.)

Externally, relations with the Biden administration have been icy under Bukele, with San Salvador refusing to back a US-sponsored UN resolution condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine.

What matters most to Salvadorans is the dropping crime rate, which is why Bukele will likely cruise to reelection next year.

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