The US and the UK have sought to fend off a feared Russian invasion of Ukraine in part by going public with an unusual amount of intelligence, hoping to rob Vladimir Putin of the element of surprise.
There have been regular briefings in Washington and London – sometimes from national security officials who do not often talk to the press – going into detail about potential Russian military tactics, regime change plots, and “false flag” operations Moscow is allegedly planning to provide a pretext for invasion.
Derek Chollet, the state department counselor, said on Wednesday that the US and its allies wanted to warn of Russia possibly carrying out such operations in Ukraine “in order to hinder their ability to do so”.
“We are trying to be as forthcoming as possible, to say that’s their play and what could be coming,” Chollet said.
In doing so, the US and UK are trying to beat Russia at what has largely been Moscow’s game in recent years – or at least to provide better opposition.
“I think it’s the west getting a little more savvy on using intelligence in an actionable way,” John Sipher, a veteran of the CIA’s clandestine service, said. “It’s what we used to call – when the Russians did it – information warfare, and it’s something we’ve never got very good at.