"Narodna Pravda" asked experts and former intelligence officers how the level of Ukrainian intelligence has changed since the onset of the war in Donbas and Russian aggression against our country. Despite the Day of Military Intelligence -which is celebrated today on September 7th - not only positive aspects, but also negative ones were discussed.
Mykola Malomuzh, former head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine
- First of all, one needs to understand that today the military intelligence of Ukraine bears the status of combat intelligence. The fact of the matter is that all the years before Russian aggression military intelligence officers of Ukraine acted in a so-called civilian format: made analytical conclusions, collected information which, more often than not, did not make a practical impact.
Among the positive changes that are noticeable in 2017 I can note that the operational element of Ukrainian intelligence services is already acting in the format of penetrating into adversary military structures. This is a very serious, very high level of operation which includes, among else, the use of an agent network amidst the most difficult combat conditions. The second positive change are the new radio electronic means and personnel that has been trained to operate these assets correctly, obtaining critical data from the enemy's closed channels of communication, combat units and headquarters and, albeit in rare cases at present, from strategic decision-making centers. For the sake of justice, I should note that the intelligence community explored this direction before, but it was of theoretical nature. Now we are talking about combat employment.
However, it is vital not to lose our grip on reality or rest on laurels. One should remember that the enemy is also developing - the Russian Federation is adopting the latest means of protection against data capture. Broadly speaking, on a ten-point scale I would evaluate the level of Ukrainian intelligence of 2014 at a weak 3 points, now – about 7 points.
Alexander Skipalskyi, former head of the SBU military counterintelligence directorate, ex-chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine
- The main thing is not how our intelligence has changed, but how the attitude of Ukrainian leadership has changed towards it. The neglect displayed by authorities towards intelligence agencies until 2014 cost us hundreds of fighters’ lives at the front, under-funding of the intelligence sector has made us vulnerable at the time when Russian aggression began.
Without a shadow of a doubt the main - I’d go as far as to even say critical - factor that brought about the shift in attitude towards intelligence was the war. We finally realized who our main enemy is - the Russian Federation. Until 2014, the political and military leadership of Ukraine did not want to acknowledge the obvious things, the threat from the Russian Federation. Instead of working towards finding tools and means of protection, intelligence was engaged in areas where, essentially, it should not have been working, based on the principle of keeping busy.
I will not enumerate all of the positive aspects of the improvement in areas of technical support and training. The key development is that patriots of Ukraine are currently serving in the ranks of intelligence. Do not think that this is platitude, it is a critical factor for such an instrument as intelligence. This factor combined with the understanding of the role and the importance of intelligence by state leadership, is doing its job. I’ve read with interest several reports in the Russian media where, among propaganda calls, a clear line is traced - the Russian Federation now respects and fears our intelligence. And if the enemy is afraid, then we are moving in the right direction.
Valentyn Badrak, Director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies
- One of the markers of the success of Ukraine's military intelligence is the prompt and, most importantly, timely notification regarding the forces and means that RF is deploying or plans to deploy in aggression against our country. Moreover, intelligence focuses not only on divisions, but also collects data regarding specific individuals, naming Russian servicemen and senior officers who either directly participate in military aggression or are curators of the illegal armed groups in Donbas. This work is important not only at present but also for the long-term perspective. It should be said that the evidence to the presence of Russian troops was documented in the deep rear of the enemy as well. I see a direct link between the successful work of our intelligence and attempts by the enemy to destroy it with the assassination of Major General Maxim Shapoval of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine.
But if we are to speak objectively about Ukraine's military intelligence and its evolution since 2014, then we should not forget some negative aspects. Among the negative, for example, is the fact that at the time when the war broke out no agent cells in the eastern direction were created. Another negative factor - as a space power, Ukraine still does not have its own satellite intelligence and uses the information support of partner states in the framework of international agreements.
As for prospects, we need to create an intelligence segment, including within the structure of the DIU, which will deal not only with notification and data collection, but also provide necessary influence on key figures in foreign policy, as well as to form an agent network outside of Ukraine. This will promote the transition to a proactive position of Ukraine in foreign policy.