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British intelligence at the forefront


Jeremy Fleming rarely speaks in public and his speeches are even more rarely filmed. Since 2017, he has been the director of the very discreet GCHQ, the British intelligence, security and cybersecurity agency. Visiting the Australian capital, Canberra, on Thursday March 31, this senior official shared his analyzes on world security, in the context of“an unprovoked and premeditated attack on Ukraine”. By way of introduction, he launched: “It was shocking in every sense of the word, but it was not a surprise (…), given the information we had. »

For several months, British officials had warned that the Russian president was plotting an invasion of Ukraine. Unlike many of their European counterparts, particularly French, who saw only a ruse by Putin to obtain further concessions from NATO and the European Union on the security guarantees demanded by Moscow.

Sovereignty in analysis and decision-making

Among the factors explaining this efficiency, the sharing of sensitive information enjoyed by British services with Americans, in particular through the “Five Eyes” alliance (bringing together Australia, Canada, the United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom) , but also the Aukus military alliance, launched recently with Washington and Canberra. Gold for Julie Maronneau, researcher at the Policy Exchange think tank, based in London, “the more we coordinate intelligence, the greater the chances of having a good representation of what is happening on the ground. »

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At the risk of finding themselves aligned with the Americans, as during the intervention in Iraq in 2003? A retired senior British officer, wishing to remain anonymous, assures him: “Thanks to access to more sources than in the past, we retain our sovereignty in terms of analysis and decision-making. » After the violent questioning which followed the intervention of the American-British forces in Iraq on the basis of erroneous information, the functioning of the British services was reviewed with a very substantial increase in their means: between 2003 and 2021, their budget was multiplied by 2.5.

A cell to counter misinformation

In Canberra, Jeremy Fleming also referred to the activity of a new entity within his intelligence service, the “Government Information Cell” which aims to “identifying and countering Kremlin disinformation aimed at UK and overseas audiences”. He also acknowledged that a lot of information had been quickly declassified “to prevent Putin’s actions”.

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Concretely, the British targeted rumors propagated by the Russians intended to justify their military intervention, such as the accusation of an ongoing “genocide” against the Russian-speaking population in the Donbass or the so-called use of chemical weapons by the Kyiv army. “It is all the more important since the allies do not want to intervene militarilyassures Julie Maronneau. Therefore, they have only two levers: provide weapons to the Ukrainians to defend themselves and not lose the information battle, as was the case in 2014. » At the time, Westerners had not mobilized significant means to counter the Kremlin’s discourse justifying the intervention of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, then the annexation of Crimea.

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Make doubt and weaken the adversary

In order not to lose this battle, it is also necessary to disseminate its own communication to the public. Jeremy Fleming did not hesitate in Canberra, and it was undoubtedly one of the objectives of his public outing.

He thus assured that “Putin misjudged the situation” and “underestimated the economic consequences of the sanctions”. And to add: “We have seen Russian soldiers, low on weapons and low on morale, refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft. »

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Everything is good to make doubt, and therefore weaken, his adversary in order to push him to end the conflict as quickly as possible. Because if it continues, the daily life of Westerners will be permanently affected, and their leaders could then find themselves under strong pressure from their public opinion.

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