Ukraine and Using the Righteousness of our Cause Creatively

Opinion

Gregory Sims served in the CIA’s Clandestine Service for over thirty years, including multiple field tours as Chief and Deputy Chief of CIA stations.  He is currently retired and living in Huntsville, AL. He can be found on LinkedIn. [...] Read more

View all articles by Gregory Sims

OPINION — Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will generate immediate waves on the intel front, especially in HUMINT operations. Some effects will follow established patterns, but the nature of modern society will add new twists, if we have the imagination to exploit them.

Many Russians will accept Putin’s line that Russia is simply “disarming and de-nazifying” Ukraine, but many others will see through this charade to the reality that they are invading a fraternal country that was not a genuine security threat, and this will be a tipping point for some.

As happened after the USSR crushed uprisings in Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and the crackdown on Solidarity in Poland in 1981, U.S. and Western intelligence services will be poised to receive volunteers and defectors from the Russian national security establishment repelled by this turn of events. History shows they will come, and even just a few can make a massive difference. It’s bread-and-butter HUMINT.

What’s new is the maturation of highly competent non-state, citizen-driven investigation and intelligence entities, such as Bellingcat. Many Russians with access to military, intelligence, technological, or political secrets revolted by Putin’s war on Ukraine, and perhaps feeling complicit because of their work, would still never entertain the concept of offering their information to a foreign intelligence service. They might, however, feel more inclined to leak their knowledge to one of the new non-governmental intelligence organizations instead, to protest and influence events in a way they can more comfortably rationalize with their patriotism. Western intelligence services should not begrudge this because ultimately it serves the same purpose as clandestine intelligence–exposing the secret plans, intentions, and capabilities of an aggressor.


Cipher Brief Subscriber+ Members receive exclusive expert briefings from members of our expert network. Upgrade to Subscriber+ today. 


And why not take it a step further. In announcing his decision to invade, Putin personally called on Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their weapons and go home. Perhaps President Biden could do him one better during his next address.  Here’s how I imagine a message from the President, “To all Russian military personnel and those working in military and intelligence areas, I am sure many of you are as outraged as the rest of the world at your leader’s barbaric and deadly decision. I urge you to join the cause of freedom and help undermine this attack by joining forces with us. If you fly a warplane or helicopter, land it in Ukraine and surrender. If you drive a tank or carry a gun, surrender under a white flag. If you operate missiles or artillery, make them non-operational, or if you have knowledge of the most critical secrets needed for your government to continue this war, in the name of God help stop it by exposing them, either to our governments or to the media. If it is possible, come in person. You will be welcomed. It is your duty as a civilized human being.”

A move like this will put them on their heels and force them to keep a wary eye on their own. Our biggest asymmetric advantage is the righteousness of our cause. We should use it creatively.

Read more expert-driven national security insights, perspective and analysis in The Cipher Brief


The Cyber Initiatives Group is hosting its Spring Summit, co-hosted by Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly and former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Cyber, Infrastructure, Risk and Resilience Policy Matt Hayden, on Wednesday, May 25. Reserve your seat today.

Opinion

Gregory Sims served in the CIA’s Clandestine Service for over thirty years, including multiple field tours as Chief and Deputy Chief of CIA stations.  He is currently retired and living in Huntsville, AL. He can be found on LinkedIn.

View all articles by Gregory Sims

Comments are closed.

Related Articles

Search

Close