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Role of Denial and Deception in National Security Affairs


Geopolitical, economic, and other contradictions that arise among world powers are accompanied by intelligence operations and the principles of ensuring national security. One of the strategies that have been used for decades is the denial and deception tactics that consist in planting false and implausible data on opponents regarding the available military, infrastructure, and other potential. The effective application of such a strategy, for instance, during World War II, when countries did not have high-precision equipment for outside surveillance, has not stopped. Despite the fact that modern national security agencies possess significant digital developments for conducting intelligence operations, denial and deception tactics have also evolved, as examples from the recent history of geopolitical relations show.

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Examples of Using the Denial and Deception Strategy

The use of the strategy under consideration has developed in the context of optimizing the resource bases that countries have, but its basic principles have been preserved. For instance, Lambakis cites the example of space confrontation among superpowers such as the US, Russia, and China. The author mentions the denial strategy as a practice designed to create misconceptions among opponents about one another’s production potential. Launching satellites, dominating space, and averting invisible threats is an essential part of modern geopolitical tactics in pursuit of world domination. As a result, to misinform the adversaries, these powers implement such a counterintelligence approach.

Another example of the denial and deception strategy in the modern world can be seen in contemporary North Korea. As Giannetti notes, this Asian country promoting communist development principles for decades has adopted the tactics of the former USSR and adopted camouflage methods to destabilize other countries’ intelligence projects. In recent history, North Korea has repeatedly tested long-range missile launches, including those with nuclear warheads. The country’s government supports the idea of ​​misleading opponents from the capitalist camp. Therefore, the denial and deception strategy obviously proves its relevance in the modern world.

Reasons for the Strategy’s Success

One of the main reasons why denial and deception remain relevant as counterintelligence practices in modern realities is the stagnation of states’ political systems. Pynnöniemi analyzes the foreign policy of the Russian Federation and notes that its government supports the course of achieving world domination by any means, including by addressing threats that they themselves consider objective. The practice of deterrence promoted by the Russian government does not imply a transition to updated strategies for ensuring national security and influencing opponents, for instance, hybrid warfare promoted by Western states. As a result, the narrowness of the foreign policy stance constrains the introduction of more advanced intelligence and counterintelligence programs.

Another reason why the denial and deception strategy is applied and succeeds is due to its ease of use. Giannetti notes that modern digital developments make it possible to remotely control the resource bases of opposing countries, and the principle of misinforming opponents does not require significant effort. Governments need to provide the national security sectors with substantial financial investments, and denial and deception practices are not associated with major engineering solutions and complex projects. Therefore, despite the emergence of various intelligence tactics, the strategy in question remains relevant as a convenient and relatively simple technique.

Finally, as a significant reason for preserving the denial and deception strategy in world practice, one can note the real danger of open intelligence operations and the relative safety of the principle of disinformation. After World War II, the world community suffered enormous losses. The Cold War between the US and the USSR, in turn, proved that the desire for world domination could turn into a global catastrophe for humanity. Pynnöniemiquotes one of the Russian generals in the post-Cold war period, who argued that preventing open conflict through indirect action was an important security strategy. The fragility of peaceful existence can be violated in the case of open attempts to research opponents’ internal security systems. Thus, the risks of military conflict justify the application of the denial and deception strategy by world leaders.

Future of the Strategy

The analysis of the strategy under consideration allows asserting that its use by modern national security agencies will not be stopped. According to Lambakis, in the future, such tactics will need to be improved and supplemented with new solutions, but in general, they are sustainable. World leaders will not abandon comparatively safe foreign intelligence methods to exacerbate an already unstable geopolitical situation. Therefore, such a strategy will retain its role as one of the most sought-after tools in counterintelligence programs.

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The denial and deception tactics, being a strategy used by the security agencies of different countries, have been applied for decades and, despite their simplicity, play an essential role in solving intelligence and counterintelligence tasks. Examples from contemporary practice show that individual states, including superpowers, utilize this approach. The reasons for maintaining the strategy relate to its ease of application, the stagnation of political systems, and the threat of open armed conflict. In the future, such tactics will evolve, but world governments are unlikely to abandon them completely.


Giannetti, William. “Piercing the Fog of Data: Using Activity Based Intelligence to Combat the North Korea Missile Problem.” Air & Space Power Journal 32, no. 1 (2018): 96-103.

Lambakis, Steven. “Foreign Space Capabilities: Implications for US National Security.” Comparative Strategy 37, no. 2 (2018): 87-154.

Pynnöniemi, Katri. “Russia’s National Security Strategy: Analysis of Conceptual Evolution.” The Journal of Slavic Military Studies 31, no. 2 (2018): 240-256.

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