Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has been teaching the United States about information warfare for decades. Now it’s time for the United States to attempt to outwit the master at his own game.
A Russian plan to stage a faked atrocity as a pretext for an invasion has been exposed by the Biden administration, which has detailed Moscow’s war plans, warned that an invasion could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths, and hinted that Russian officers have reservations about President Vladimir Putin.
Later on Friday, Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security advisor, told reporters at the White House that the United States was witnessing indicators of Russian escalation and that there was a “credible chance” that the United States would launch prompt military action. Other officials said that the declaration was motivated by fresh information indicating that an invasion may begin as soon as Wednesday, if not sooner.
According to current and former officials, the unusual succession of disclosures — which has unfolded nearly as swiftly as material has been received and reviewed — has amounted to one of the most aggressive dumps of intelligence by the United States since the Cuban missile crisis.
It is an odd gamble, in part because President Biden has made it plain on several occasions that the United States would not deploy soldiers to protect Ukraine. In fact, the government is alerting the world to a serious danger, not in order to make the case for war, but rather in order to attempt to avoid one.
Disclosing Mr. Putin’s preparations in the aim of postponing an invasion and allowing more time for dialogue, or possibly giving Mr. Putin a chance to reassess the political, economic, and human consequences of an invasion are the goals of the campaign.
At the same time, officials from the Biden administration stated that they had a more focused and realistic goal: they wanted to make it more difficult for Mr. Putin to justify an invasion with lies, thereby undermining his standing on the international stage and building support for a more robust response to the invasion.
Prodded by the White House, intelligence agencies have released previously classified material, which has been briefed to Congress, shared with media, and discussed by Pentagon and State Department officials.
The most essential contrast, according to the authorities, is that there is a fundamental difference between Iraq in 2003 and Ukraine in 2022. Ms. Sullivan said on Friday that “in Iraq, intelligence was leveraged and deployed from this very stage to initiate a war.” “We are attempting to avert a conflict.”
When the country’s spy agencies have information about Russian activity that could help the world make better decisions about the country, one senior intelligence official said, the information should be made public as long as the government is able to avoid disclosing how the information was gathered or who passed it along.
No proof has been presented by the Biden administration in support of the misinformation plans they claim to have discovered, despite many exposures. Government officials have suggested that providing information would provide Russia with information about how they operate. Officials claim that this would enable Moscow to “stop the leaks” and would be tantamount to disarming in the midst of an information war, as they have previously said.
Mr. Putin has employed misinformation to cast doubt on his military operations in a number of recent excursions, and he has done it repeatedly. Mr. Putin has been able to accomplish his objectives more readily because of such techniques, which have stalled international reactions. When masked men started seizing control of government facilities in Crimea in February 2014, Moscow claimed they were part of a pro-Russian insurrection led by the local population. It was only after Crimea was annexed that it became evident that the “little green guys” were in fact Russian military soldiers.
When the intelligence agencies refused to allow the White House to share information with NATO, much alone the public, senior Obama administration officials remembered their dissatisfaction. “We were frustrated,” they said.
According to retired officials, Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election in the United States was an even more crucial lesson. Russian influence activities were criticised by some, including members of the Obama administration, who claimed that the United States was being too inactive in raising attention to the situation.
Other analysts feel that the United States may be able to become more aggressive in the future. For example, the United States or its allies may make public information on Mr. Putin’s senior lieutenants or the oligarchs who back him. That has the potential to raise questions about people’s devotion or disclose their riches.
In the words of Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who has written on the changing character of war, “the new laws of war benefit autocracies because they can do all of these things well: they can fight sly and dirty.” “The issue is, what do we, as a democratic society, stand to lose by battling in this manner? Is it possible for a democracy to wage a “secret war,” if you will, without losing its democratic soul?”