Deepfakes and the Future of Geopolitics

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The Week of March 27th - April 3rd

This Week's Takeaway in 30 Seconds...
Simulation of Artificial Intelligence. Credit: Pixabay
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An AI-generated video of President Zelenskyy asking soldiers to lay down their weapons and surrender circulated social media last year, leading the public to ask whether deepfakes could tip the scales in geopolitics. Russia hopes to tip the scales this month when it begins its four-week role as head of the U.N. Security Council. Russia made more headlines when they arrested an American journalist in Yekaterinburg, a move reminiscent of the Cold War. While the international community digests these developments, the International Monetary Fund unveiled a massive, four-year financial support package for Ukraine. The support will likely be welcomed by Ukraine’s mighty steel industry, which has been the economic and spiritual heart of the war effort. But will it be able to withstand the Kremlin’s war plans?

All this and more in this week's newsletter!

Ukraine Unlocked is a weekly newsletter providing a roundup of the cultural, political, and economic developments in the country. We hope to provide students, professionals, and the casual reader with greater insight into Ukraine as its role on the global stage evolves throughout the 21st century.

Past meeting of the U.N. security council. Credit: United Nations Photos via Flickr
Press Freedoms Fading
  • Another American Detained in Russia: Wall Street Journal Reporter Evan Gershkovich has been detained in Russia on allegations of espionage. This is the first time an American reporter has been arrested in Russia since the Cold War. The U.S. State Department, The White House, and the Wall Street Journal all condemned the move and said they were in touch with Russian officials. With Britney Griner’s detention lasting almost a year for a far less serious offense, the Kremlin may end up demanding much more to release Gershkovich. One of his most recent articles for the Wall Street Journal examined the situation in Bakhmut. The arrest of an independent reporter in Russia resembles a tactic of the Cold War, and makes for a bleak outlook for fact-based journalism in Russia. 
  • Useless U.N.: This past Saturday, Russia took up the role as president of the U.N. Security Council, the primary body responsible for upholding peace in the world. Ukraine’s permanent representative to the U.N. said, “As of 1 April, they’re taking the level of absurdity to a new level.” The country presiding over the Council sets the agenda for the month, deciding what topics will be discussed among the group. So far, none of the 15 countries which sit on the council have stated they will boycott.

 Human Moment: 

Ukraine gains a helping paw from the Netherlands. 

The Mill City Museum in Minneapolis which is currently hosting the exhibit "Ukraine: War and Resistance." Credit: Joe D via Wikimedia Commons
Trying to Show Normal Life
  • Minneapolis Area Exhibits: For all our readers in the Minneapolis-area, there are two Ukrainian-focused exhibitions currently on display in the city: one at the Mill City Museum and the other at the Museum of Russian Art. "Ukraine: War and Resistance" which is on display at the Mill City Museum through May 14th, shows what life is like outside of the war. Photos depict people going about their daily lives throughout the country, reminding viewers that citizens are trying to retain some semblance of their normal life within Ukraine's borders. At the Museum of Russian Art, painted canvases memorialize the first twelve months of war with bright and striking images. You can check out this exhibit through July 15. 
    • Friend of Ukraine Unlocked cofounders, Roman Tyshchenko, a current Fulbright Scholar at the University of Minnesota, coordinated the display of “Ukraine: War and Resistance.” 
  • Intellectual Rally: Famous intellectuals from around the world gathered for a three-day virtual conference to raise awareness and funding for the Kyiv Moyhlya Academy Center for Civic Engagement. The theme of the conference was “What good is philosophy? The role of the academy in a time of crisis.” Kyiv Moyhlya established the Center to support civic organizations whose work was disturbed by the war. Headliners at the conference included Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid's Tale) and Timothy Snyder (Yale professor and historian). The conference ended up raising over $20,000 dollars for the Center for Civic Engagement.
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Introduction of DigiDoug Deepfake at TED2019. Credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr
Steel, Attrition, and AI Deep Fakes
  • Steel—The Beating Heart of the War: Steel production is Ukraine’s second-largest industry, trailing only agriculture. The destruction of factories across southeast Ukraine caused production to fall by 70% in 2022. Despite the significant losses, the steel industry has contributed $81 million to the war effort. The remaining plants, such as Zaporizhstal in Zaporizhzhia, now produce helmets, body armor, and plating for military vehicles. But the steel industry’s importance has transcended practical productions. Ukrainian forces held out for months in the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, symbolizing Ukraine’s determination to resist Russia at all costs and its deep ties with the industry.  
  • A Protracted War: The Guardian, citing anonymous sources, reported that Kremlin spokesperson, Dimitry Peskov, told a group of Russian leaders in December that invasion “will take a very, very, long time” and that the war effort will put a strain on Russia. The Institute for the Study of War sees this as further proof that Kremlin officials have been meticulously preparing Russia’s society and economy for a war of attrition.
  • The Power of AI Deepfakes: Deepfakes created by AI, typically an impersonation of someone, usually in video format, are a growing concern in geopolitics. At the beginning of Russia’s invasion, a deepfake of President Zelenskyy circulated showing him calling for Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their weapons. The video’s lack of certain common human characteristics helped people identify it as a fake.
    • Should we be Concerned about Deepfakes? However, deepfakes could become more sophisticated in the future. The more videos of Zelenskyy that circulate on the internet mean more data for the machine to capture his mannerisms aptly. What if a video appeared of Zelenskyy, or another world leader, issuing a command to launch nuclear weapons? Cyber security experts believe that for now there are enough checks and balances to prevent nuclear destruction based on a social media video.

  Human Moment: ⛑️

Aid from Ukraine reaches northwest Syria.

King Charles and the First Lady of Ukraine together for the opening of the Ukrainian refugee welcome center in England. Credit: The Catholic Church of England via Flickr

Another Royal Visit

  • The King’s Speech: King Charles of England followed Prince William's visit to Poland by visiting a refugee arrival center in Berlin. The King played foosball and chatted with a few Ukrainians in the arrival center before delivering a speech in which he condemned the invasion and told Ukrainians, “I’m praying for you.” The United Kingdom currently has over 115,000 Ukrainian refugees. Still, the programs have been riddled with problems, with many facing homelessness.
Looking to lend support to Ukraine? Below are some ways you can help:
  • Help forPEACE, which seeks to connect foreign donations with on-the-ground organizations in Ukraine
  • Donate to the Ukrainian military (will need google translate on your computer)
  • Donate to Ukrainian NGO Come Back Alive
  • Help Ukrainian refugees in Poland
Sign for the IMF. Credit: Joe Athialy via Flickr
Keeping an Economy Afloat
  • Long-Term Support Package: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $15.6 billion loan to Ukraine, which is part of a larger $115 billion package to help support Ukraine’s economy over the next four years. $2.7 billion will be made available to Ukraine immediately. The package aims to help Ukraine’s current needs and prepare them for a post-war rebuild. However, the agreement includes provisions to increase the aid if combat continues beyond 2024. Numerous international financial institutions and private firms are involved in the multi-year package. The loan approval process was complex, as creditors recognized how difficult it will be for Ukraine to repay the large sums in the future. 
To help people pursue their passions about the Eurasian region we are collecting jobs that are connected to the area. If you have a relevant job you would like posted here please contact us. 
Entry Level  Mid-Career Senior Level 
Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. We always look forward to engaging with our readers. 

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