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US Options for Fighting Russians in Ukraine
Paramilitary aid? Cyber counter-offensives? Check out this week's SpyTalk podcast.
In this week’s SpyTalk podcast, former CIA operations officer Douglas London talks about covert paramilitary possibilities against a Russian occupation of Ukraine, and former NSA Director and Cyber Command boss Mike Rogers discusses the new frontiers of cyber battles provoked by the crisis.
“I really do believe that we’re going to find, in the history of cyber and cyber warfare, that this Russian-Ukraine issue is going to be a major watershed,” he told podcast co-host Jeanne Meserve. Topics: the strength of Ukraine cyber defenses; the roles of freelance hacktivists and private industry in the cyber space; whether the battle could spill over into Europe and trigger NATO’s Article 5 mutual-defense obligations; and speculation on why we haven't seen more Russian cyberattacks in support of the Ukraine offensive.
At the top of the show, CIA clandestine operations veteran Douglas London talks with me about the likely shape of a sustained Ukraine resistance against a Russian occupation.
It’s going to look a lot more like how the American OSS and British Special Operations Executive supported French and Norwegian partisans’ spying and sabotage activities against the Nazis at the outset of World War Two than the CIA-backed jihadis’ campaign against the Red Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s, he said.
For starters, the CIA and its European allies will not need to issue even paper-thin denials that it’s backing the Ukrainians. But opportunities for conducting underground operations agains the Russians, London told me, “will depend on how much of Ukraine is left if the Russians stop short of moving to the west—which they might need to to cut off those lines of supply. But if they leave Lviv and western Ukraine open there’ll certainly be more area for partisans to operate in.”
Author of a recent memoir, The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence, London said the U.S.- and NATO-backed Ukraine resistance “will look a lot more like the cells that operated clandestinely in World War Two, where people have day jobs then come out at night or whatever to conduct their attacks…” than Afghanistan in the 1980s. The CIA’s role will be “less guidance” on underground tradecraft than “providing intelligence and liaising with these groups on the ground… and communications support and supply lines.”
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