Russia-Ukraine is an Information War, So Government Intelligence Needs More Scrutiny Than Ever

Unidentified gunmen on patrol at Simferopol Airport in Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. The AK-74 carried by the rifleman on the right does not have a magazine inserted. Photograph Source: Elizabeth Arrott / VOA – Public Domain.

The threat of war is difficult to beat when it comes to mending or enhancing a damaged reputation. President Joe Biden and Boris Johnson, both derided as ineffective in domestic policy only a few weeks ago, are now reborn as statesmen capable of guiding their countries through the minefield of Eastern European politics.

The American and British intelligence services seldom got things right during the Iraq, Libyan and Syrian conflicts, but they are now being cited as reliable guarantors of the credibility of stories about an impending Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This narrative is sold to the public as the fruit of “open intelligence”, supposedly more democratic than the more secretive approach of the past. The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week told the UN, apparently relying on information provided by US intelligence, that Russia could stage a provocation to provide a casus belli by fabricating “so-called terrorist bombing inside Russia, the invented discovery of a mass grave, a staged drone strike against civilians, or a fake – even a real attack – using chemical weapons.”

Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).