With all the foreign policy tools, including intelligence, says one former US intelligence official, it will take time, persistence, diligence and stamina to beat Russia in Ukraine. "We've done it before, we can do it again."

Ronald Marx, a former senior CIA official who currently focuses on cyber and intelligence policy issues academia, says his former intelligence students ask him these days about Ukraine and how US intelligence won the Cold War.

Intelligence has its limits

Marx answers his former students, in

an article

for the American website "The Hill", that it took US intelligence a long time, lasting 4 decades, to win the Cold War, but that victory was not achieved by intelligence alone;

Intelligence has its own wonderful uses and distinct limitations, and Ukraine is no exception.

He added that he is often asked why America does not have better human intelligence, and answers, "We have always had good human intelligence and excellent gatherers, what we don't have are politicians who are willing to back down."

He pointed out that the term used to describe Russia by US intelligence is a "hard target", and this means that it has a huge spying mechanism, all over the world, and spread everywhere, especially at home;

"They are watching their people and everything big and small in their homeland, and dictators like (Russian President) Vladimir Putin it's hard to tell what's going on in their heads, maybe he himself might not be sure."

Analysts don't predict the future

His former students are also quick to judge intelligence analysis, he said, "Why have we overestimated the strength of the Russian army? Why can't we know how sick Putin is? When will he be ousted? Why don't we use more open source information; cyberspace is full of information like this... right?" Do you guys read it?"

And he answers that there is huge amounts of information available about Ukraine, perhaps more in this war than any other in his life thanks to social media.


There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what an analyst does, he said, noting that analysts value, speak with levels of confidence, deal with huge piles of information, and do not predict the future.

A mystery shrouded in fog

He went on to say that he had not come across a single report during his 40 years in intelligence;

“So-and-so will stand at Doe at Doe at Doe and detonate an explosive belt full of nails,” he said, adding that you are likely to get 10 separate and slightly contradictory reports from several sources that vaguely describe every aspect of the event, like a fog shrouded in mystery.

Marx went on to explain to his students that their intelligence work was simply an order of the president brought to Congress to address a particular international political issue and to determine the actions of the US government, less than the use of direct military force.

Intelligence in war

The secret business of war, Marx says, is to train and finance revolutionaries, to arm them, to show them how to use weapons, and to hope to keep weapons in check and find unused ones after the war.

Also, covert action is about coordinating actions within the United States government and its allies in support of economic and political sanctions, and effective counter-propaganda. This too is part of a successful program, and none of this happens immediately;

The first conflict in Afghanistan lasted over a decade.

He explained that some of their efforts were successful because they had been pressuring the Soviet Union for 4 decades, noting that Ukraine would be no different.

Like seasoning in soup

In the final analysis, the author concludes that intelligence is the spice in the soup of politics;

Necessary and important, but not the soup itself. They can gather excellent information, but they are not expected to know what is on the minds of "tyrants" like Putin.

Intelligence analysis is discretionary;

Sometimes he succeeds and sometimes he fails, and covert action is meant to inflict pain and influence the outcome, but not to win the war.

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