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Secret Intelligence and Public Diplomacy in the Ukraine War

In this article, Thomas Maguire, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs, examines why states use intelligence to influence external audiences.

Huw Dylan & Thomas Maguire
02 August 2022
Read the publication here

Intelligence is generally collected and used in secret to inform internal audiences. Before and after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, the UK and US governments have deployed intelligence extensively to influence external audiences, both publicly and privately, regarding Russian intentions, capabilities and practices, and the consequences of Russian actions. While the scale, manner and initially pre-emptive nature of these disclosures represent a significant evolutionary step in how liberal-democratic governments use their intelligence assets, current practice has built upon historical precedents. This article examines why states choose to use intelligence – including fabricated intelligence – for influencing external audiences; the different methods they deploy for doing so; the gains and costs of publicising intelligence; and how the use of intelligence during the Russia–Ukraine conflict should be understood within broader historical and contemporary trends. The authors conclude that while liberal democracies’ use of intelligence in public is to be welcomed for its greater transparency, careful risk management will be needed if this approach is to continue.

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