7.3.4 Covert Interference

Covert interference in the affairs of another country can be hidden so that the perpetrator can deny responsibility and avoid reprisals.

It is less risky than overt military action.  It may be hard to prove to the UN what is happening, so international law is an ineffective remedy.  The affected countries are obliged to take their own countermeasures for self-protection.

As described in the following sub-sections, covert interference can take the following forms:

●  Intelligence-gathering – spying – might to gain military or technical information (  It can be used to expose an enemy’s weaknesses, to discover impending threats, or to gain competitive advantage.

●  Several governments have engaged in the assassination of key individuals (  The consequences can be unpredictable, though.

●  The practise of sabotage against key infrastructure has now been replaced by cyber-attacks (  These are becoming more widespread, and more powerful with developments in technology.  Defence against them is expensive.

●  Governments can project power by helping resistance groups with funding, whilst denying doing so (  Iran’s activities in the Middle East are a recent major example of this.

●  Subversion of a foreign government, using fake news and propaganda, has become easier with Internet social media (  It has been a major feature of Russia’s attempts to weaken the West.  A UK report on Russian interference, for example, described its meddling in British democracy and carrying out assassinations by poisoning.



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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/734.htm.