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International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 29: 110–131, 2016

Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

ISSN: 0885-0607 print=1521-0561 online
DOI: 10.1080/08850607.2015.1083337


Bringing Non-Western Cultures and

Conditions into Comparative
Intelligence Perspectives: India, Russia,
and China

Comparative analyses of non-Western intelligence communities have been

relatively few. Those that exist have tended to involve the United States as
a baseline for comparison. In fact, Intelligence Studies as an academic
discipline has been so dominated by American and English perspectives
and conceptualizations that the informal term ‘‘Anglosphere’’ has emerged.
Moreover, most non-American investigations of intelligence, whether
comparative or single case studies, tend to be anecdotal and largely
historical. And even these tend to be pushed through the lens of Western
intelligence definitions and concepts. Very little exists—at least in English
translation—that tries to examine the intelligence cultures of non-Western

Dr. Matthew Crosston is Professor of Political Science, Miller Chair for

Industrial and International Security, and Director of the International
Security and Intelligence Studies Program at Bellevue University, Bellevue,
Nebraska. A graduate of Colgate University, with an M.A. from the
University of London, and a Ph.D. from Brown University, he has done
post-doctoral work at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for
International Studies. A specialist in intelligence analysis, counterterrorism,
and cyberwar ethics, Dr. Crosston has expertise in Russian-area studies,
political Islam, and global conflict. He previously taught at Clemson
University and the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). The author of
Fostering Fundamentalism: Terrorism, Democracy and American
Engagement in Central Asia (London: Ashgate, 2006), his articles have
appeared in numerous peer-reviewed publications.



intelligence communities from their own political perspectives and national

security priorities.


Ironically, given that this project began as an effort to contribute to the
emerging literature of better understanding non-Western intelligence cultures,
it ultimately steers away from the term ‘‘culture’’ altogether. Culture as a
dominant explanatory variable in the intelligence context is a problematic
term. Why scholars like using it is understandable: it has a certain innate
legitimizing weight, allowing them to insert a particular gravitas into what by
default has to remain a rather esoteric and ambiguous concept. But, for
better understanding non-Western intelligence environments, culture is not
the dominant explanatory factor. Instead, it is a mitigating circumstance that
holds some weight, though not exclusively so. In fact, the term ‘‘strategic
intelligence conditions’’ would perhaps be more accurate than ‘‘strategic
intelligence culture,’’ given that they are adaptable and not only susceptible
to change but will often be purposely redirected depending upon certain
stimuli that might alter regime priorities. Consequently, conditions and not
cultures are discussed here. This is not to say that culture never enters into
the intelligence equation when analyzing and seeking to understand other
states. Indeed, it does, but only intangibly. Though not irrelevant, it is also
not the chief explanatory variable. Accepting a lack of permanence is
necessary when analyzing non-Western intelligence environments because
strategic intelligence conditions result from a mixture of national security
interests and regime power consolidation priorities, drawn against the
backdrop of domestic politics, economic development, and foreign policy. As
the backdrop elements change, so does the mixture, as does the strategic
intelligence condition. This formula, with some tweaking, could even apply
to Western states. More important here is to show how adding to the
analytical framework can be beneficial to understanding intelligence outside
the Anglosphere.
The American intelligence system, with its legacy of Sherman Kent,
considers itself the foundation of formal intelligence analysis and standard
against which all other intelligence systems should be judged. This, of
course, ignores the fact that some states have been engaging in what are
essentially intelligence activities for nearly two millennia. Despite these
substantial traditions of clandestine activity elsewhere, the United States
nevertheless formalized the concept of intelligence and made intelligence
analysis a distinct and explicit secret activity of the state. This has led to
some assumptions in defining intelligence that do not work well in
non-Western states even when a general consensus exists about what
modes of intelligence should be predominant.



Many definitions have been offered for the term ‘‘intelligence.’’ Some have
been extremely complicated and involved, while others have striven for a
more concise version. What seems to remain constant, across all the
variations, is a de facto endorsement of four aspects: (1) intelligence is
dependent upon confidential sources and methods; (2) intelligence
is performed by state offices for state purposes only; (3) intelligence is
focused on foreigners; and (4) intelligence seeks to influence foreign entities
by means that are not attributable to the acting government.
In short, intelligence is a secret state activity conducted by only officially
recognized state participants seeking to understand or influence foreign
entities. Carrying this concise definition and the four underlying precepts
into the non-Western arena produces some disarray. As exemplified in the
cases of India, China, and Russia, their particular intelligence communities
(a) do not depend upon purely confidential sources and methods; (b)
intelligence gathering is not performed exclusively by offices of the state
and not necessarily for state purposes only; (c) objects of intelligence focus
are not purely foreign; and (d) that influencing foreign entities cannot be
traceable back to the government is only partially true.
Indeed, for countries like China, India, and Russia, with a total of nearly
three millennia of intelligence behavior among them, the conceptualization of
intelligence is simpler:

. Intelligence is insight from information by any means necessary

. National Security Interests þ Domestic Consolidation
. Priorities ¼ Strategic Intelligence Condition (SIC)

Three mitigating factors should be added to that formula. First, all

considerations take place against the backdrop of foreign policy. In other
words, no intelligence condition takes place in a vacuum. Second,
legacies involving both allies and adversaries can and will play a role.
Sometimes they can coincide with the SIC. Sometimes they can override
it. Third, culture matters but does not dominate. To predict when or to
what extent culture can influence the SIC is not possible. Sometimes that
influence is quite strong, at other times it is barely noticeable and even a
That is why culture does not play the chief causal role in the given formula:
its mutability makes it unreliable for solely determining the SIC. Unlike the
Anglosphere conceptions, no restrictions or limitations are imposed on
sources, foci, or targets when setting the strategic intelligence condition in
non-Western states. In short, its national security interests and domestic
consolidation priorities reveal what information or objective a state will
look to obtain, then understanding how the three mitigating factors impact
a state reveals from whom it wants that information or objective.



Criticisms will arise about the lack of ethics and morals implied in the
phrase ‘‘by any means necessary.’’ This assessment, because it is not an
investigation into whether or not intelligence should be ethical or moral in
general terms, does not engage this important overarching philosophical
debate. Instead, it proposes a formula for determining non-Western
strategic intelligence conditions as they actually are and developed in
real-time. Ultimately, the important questions of morality=ethical behavior
and norms should be faced by all intelligence communities. But that global
project is best given exclusive focus. The focus here concerns the
ascertaining of intelligence motivations and priorities as the various
communities establish them. In this way it seeks to remain true to the
esteemed intelligence principle that the best way to understand threat is to
know an adversary ‘‘through its own eyes and within its own heart.’’
This abstract debate about intelligence conceptualization manifests itself
empirically through four modes of intelligence that currently tend to
dominate the global arena:1

1. Globalized counterterrorism enforcement operations that involve cooperation

between new partners, often between the West and the global South.
2. Support and tactical activities connected to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
3. Covert action and disruption.
4. Counterintelligence against state-based opponents, both real-time and virtual.

The West would arguably have the following prioritization: items 1 and 2 would
be interchangeable and more accurately called 1a and 1b. Following behind
them would be #3. Even further behind, arguably even absent, would be #4.
The SIC of non-Western states would, on the other hand, have an intelligence
mode prioritization that is quite a bit different: the first mode would be #4,
followed fairly closely by #3, and then with #1 quite a distance behind.
Mode 2 would simply not enter the non-Western SIC at all. Some analysts
have become aware of how leaving little room for alternative conceptions of
intelligence analysis, beyond Anglosphere conceptions, might limit the tools
available to understand the complex global ecosystem which encompasses and
necessarily impacts intelligence writ large.2 This goes beyond saying that the
West prefers to employ an antiseptic vision of intelligence that is clean and
precise while the non-West is full of states that must be more concerned with
messy internal problems. It is about forcing intelligence conceptualization into
arenas that might be better served by a different approach and consideration.
Yet, this analytical journey is needed to transform the ways in which
intelligence is looked at globally. Doing so is not a question of semantics
and evidence but rather of priorities and philosophies. It is not about
forcing assumptions to universal abstractions but rather discovering the



differences in how others think about intelligence. When rigidity is replaced

by malleability and when ‘‘culture’’ is joined by ‘‘condition’’ on equal terms,
then Intelligence Studies will be in a position to truly compare and analyze
the empirical diversity that has long existed within real-world intelligence
with the diversity of analytical approaches enjoyed by most other academic


If the SIC formula involves truly understanding national security interests in
conjunction with a regime’s domestic priorities against a backdrop that
includes foreign policy, relationship legacies, and a dash of culture, then India
is an impressive affirming case study. For the formula works efficiently in
teasing out the diverse strands that have long given researchers problems in
keeping harmony. In addition to accurately allowing for the innate
contemporary empirical flexibility endemic to all nations, but especially
non-Western ones, it allows scholars to see the interplay among complex
factors that are usually kept separate and distinct.
The easiest aspect of the formula to deduce, even for scholars who do not
consider themselves area specialists, is the evaluation of a nation’s security
problems. In India’s case, those challenges break down most effectively
into the categories of domestic, regional, global, and emerging:

. Indian domestic aspects of security:

. Political fragmentation
. Domestic insurgency
. Indian regional aspects of security:
. Neighbor dysfunction
. New ethnic groups and movements
. Secessionists and external insurgencies
. Religious conflicts
. Indian global aspects of security:
. International terrorism
. Nuclear proliferation
. Indian emerging aspects of security:
. Energy security
. Food security
. Water security
. Cyber security
. Maritime security
. Migration security



A nation’s domestic and regional aspects have a natural connectivity. Political

fragmentation is more than simply a problem of organizing effective
bureaucratic governance. As a result of fragmentation and the constant need
to broker coalitions and alliances, the Indian government’s capabilities to
effectively and timely respond to immediate security concerns are put into
question.3 A security aspect not usually considered by Western countries is
the fear of domestic insurgency based upon an uneven and often corrupt
economic development. In India’s case, this uneven development combines
regional, ethnic, and criminal elements into the national security nexus.
Several of India’s border states rank high on the Fund for Peace Failed
States Index. Thus, neighborly dysfunction becomes an ever-present national
security concern. Like domestic insurgency, neighboring state dysfunction is
not usually a high priority for Western states in formulating their
intelligence constructs. But for states like India these two aspects are not
only critically important, they also tend to be the most common scares
facing the country on an everyday basis. Cross-border movement and
unstable border populations in adjacent countries cause yet other unique
security aspects for India. This human flow goes in both directions: so
whether discussing the Tamils in Sri Lanka, Punjabis in Kashmir, Indians
near Nepal, Tibetans fleeing Chinese persecution, and Bangladeshis
migrating (legally and illegally) into India, these situations present national
security challenges that must be prioritized by the strategic intelligence
construct. Indeed, that so many states in the Global South face issues of
uneven economic development and neighbor-state dysfunction, it makes
obvious why migration security is quickly moving up their individual lists of
emerging intelligence problems. Given that Western states manifest the
strongest allegiance to secularization and the separation between faith and
state, that religious conflict still matters to non-Western governments should
be no surprise. Religion in India has long had a significant impact on social
stratification and political mobilization, frequently erupting in violence,
predominantly between Hindus and Muslims, and giving way to fears of
emerging radicalization.4
A great harmony often exists between the global and emerging security
concerns informing the strategic intelligence condition. While nearly all
nations are concerned with international terrorism and nuclear proliferation,
India undoubtedly faces these two universal threats with a particular
intensity. India has long been a victim of what it calls cross-border
terrorism, often casting an accusatory eye toward its neighbor to the north,
Pakistan. A long-time member of the nuclear club, India’s neighbors to the
northwest and the northeast, Pakistan and China, are members of the same
club and have been in a long-term alliance whose primary purpose is
arguably constraining India. At least this is the common perception found
on the streets of New Delhi. Also to be found on the emerging security list



that informs the Indian strategic intelligence condition are issues that are
quickly becoming commonplace for those dealing with either human or
non-traditional security. Though these issues—energy, food, water, cyber,
maritime, and migration—are not unique to non-Western states, they
occupy a higher prioritization for non-Western intelligence communities
(with the possible exception of cyber). For India these issues are inextricably
linked, putting great domestic pressure on the state in terms of social
welfare, and clearly and directly impacting the country’s present and future
international relationships.5
Given its complex web of national security concerns, India cannot afford
to consider limitations on its participants, foci, targets, and objectives.
Food and water, depending upon the context, can easily be seen at times
by India as greater national security priorities than nuclear proliferation.
To find intelligence resources being utilized in areas that many Western
states would consider purely domestic and not related to national security
and therefore deemed ineligible for intelligence action should not be
surprising. In the past, this divergence has often been mistakenly
considered to be proof of the superiority of Western over non-Western
states, especially in terms of civil society, the rule of law, and liberty. But
that judgment is misplaced: the formula herein proposed to properly
understand and analyze India’s strategic intelligence condition makes
explicit the complex web of factors that creates unique needs and pressures
and justifies the use of intelligence in areas not typically endorsed in the
West. This is not proof of superiority. It is simply confirmation of a
different empirical context.
Domestic regime priorities clearly factor into any deductive list of national
security concerns within non-Western states: the line of demarcation between
domestic and global is not nearly as evident or as explicit as in Western
states. Yet this does not necessarily represent political corruption,
government dysfunction, or civilizational inferiority per se, but rather
simple common sense necessity and practicality. India’s chief national
security concerns naturally bleed from the global into the domestic, and
from the domestic outward to the globe. Trying to force a demarcation
simply undermines the strategic intelligence condition by hindering the
acquisition of the information India needs. Once the interests and priorities
define what information is needed, examining the three mitigating factors
(foreign policy, relationship legacies, and culture) becomes paramount in
order to understand from whom the information should come. These
factors play the roles of shapes and shadows: they do not fundamentally
alter what India sees as its intelligence priorities, but instead color,
constrain, and coax intelligence resources into action toward, or restraint
against, the likely holders of information on a contemporary contextual



Political culture, the philosophy through which a nation envisions itself and
its place in the world, is as susceptible to change and adaptation over time as
foreign policy. It can often devolve into an unanswerable conundrum! Did
political culture change because of a shift in foreign policy priorities? Or did
the priorities of foreign policy alter because of a fundamental shift in a
country’s political culture? These questions need not be answered since the
adaptability and changing nature of political culture is of primary
importance here. In broad strokes India has seen three major shifts in its
political culture since the 1950s:6

. 1950s and 1960s: Unified Idealism

. 1970s and 1980s: Intermittent Realism
. 1990s onward: Pragmatism

This breakdown does not take into account the heritage and cultural legacy of
the doctrine of statecraft framed by the fourth century BCE scholar-statesman
Kautilya and his magnificent Arthashastra, which highlights three key pillars
of normative political philosophy: engagement with the world, adherence to
rule-based norms, and transparency.7 Nor does it necessarily deal explicitly
with India’s complicated relationship with norms based on Enlightenment
values because of the legacy of the British colonial empire. Again, political
culture does not solely determine the actions to be taken or not taken by a
given state. Rather, it adds to the interaction that swings on a pendulum
between ally and adversary. How much and how fast the pendulum of
political culture swings will be determined largely by explicit foreign policy
issues and particular relationship legacies.
For India, this inevitably leads to a focus on its immediate neighborhood,
which offers numerous issues and actors to choose from:8

. The collusive nuclear weapons=missile development program between China and

. Afghanistan’s endless civil war;
. The complicated nexus of narcotics, terrorism, and small arms proliferation across
Central Asia;
. The danger of Pakistan slowly sliding towards the status of a failed state;
. Sri Lanka’s continued involvement in the Tamil insurgency;
. The struggle against state repression and religious freedom in Tibet against China;
. The nascent movement for democracy in Myanmar; and
. Bangladesh’s fight for economic development and its accompanying migration

This menu is quite typical for the strategic intelligence condition of

non-Western states: global concerns are not necessarily put on the back
burner but regional and domestic battles are always more pressing. Yet,



India’s own march toward an enhanced global power status and the subsequent
relations that must be had with countries like Russia, Israel, France, Germany,
the United Kingdom, and the United States are impelling. This preoccupation
with urgent and intractable domestic and regional problems occasionally
creates a sense among both Indian and international observers that the
country lacks effective coordination and is prone to something derogatorily
referred to as ‘‘ad hoc-ism’’ and drift. 9 Discerning India’s strategic
intelligence condition, however, needs to take issue with this criticism. With
nearly a dozen problematic neighbors, while continuing to undergo its own
economic and political transformation, commensurate with higher-level
interactions among greater powers, and nearly 15 separate security priorities
mashing many of these players together in diverse ways, there simply is no
other strategic coordination available to India than one that is justifiably ‘‘ad
hoc’’ and allows purposeful drift. To observe this adaptability and
malleability of Indian intelligence and take it as a sign that the country lacks
purpose and planning, and therefore weakness, is a Western bias.
What New Delhi cannot help but feel is being a surrounded tiger: it
rightfully considers itself as a rising power in a polycentric international
community while facing numerous rivals across a series of issues epitomized
by unsteady and not always reliable alliances.10 If not because of its own
vision of the strategic future, then because of the constant propaganda
flowing across the global community, India will be inextricably linked to
China. How that relationship develops, whether as a rival or a partner, will
inevitably dominate the strategic intelligence condition of India in the 21st
century. Whether China’s community equally agrees is another matter.


Subtleties always abound within the SIC formula. If India’s national security
interests and domestic consolidation priorities caused it to largely focus on
problems in and around its immediate regional neighborhood, the same
formula reveals China to be most concerned with its own internal
challenges while still needing to keep alert to emerging regional and global
difficulties. Indeed, an interesting subtlety to be considered while
discerning the SIC is akin to a country’s psychological global self-image.
India has not yet reached the point where it feels confident enough to
project its own visions and discussion points onto the global community.
For this reason it will almost always adopt the necessary language and
terminology common to all. In contrast, China does not suffer from this
lack of confidence and is often quite adamant in defining its own terms
regardless of whether or not the global community follows suit.



This attitude is demonstrated in attempts by Chinese authorities to reject the

term ‘‘human security’’ and instead adopt the more opaque ‘‘non-traditional
security.’’ While China has accepted human security as a new framework
within which to study modern security challenges, it has actively sought to
show how its implications can be intrusive and even invasive of state
sovereignty. 11 Indicative of China’s confidence in projecting its power
outward across the global community, Beijing’s term ‘‘non-traditional
security’’ includes not just people and populations but actual state security.
Thus, China definitively asserts the rights and obligations of the state, and
the chief imperative of state survival, as coincident with the desire to alleviate
and resolve health emergencies, financial crises, natural disasters, nuclear
pollution, political instability, and food shortages. By broadening the sphere
of impact for human security to state functionality, China is operationalizing
the ability to act in areas not necessarily deemed firmly within governmental
jurisdiction.12 Not coincidentally, these problems represent most of China’s
domestic and emerging security interests.

. Chinese domestic aspects of security

. Wide-scale corruption
. Ethnic unrest
. Economic inequality=Social stability
. Military modernization
. Chinese regional aspects of security
. Fishing disputes
. Offshore oil and gas fields
. Border security
. Conflict between neighboring states
. Chinese global aspects of security
. Economic instability
. American ‘‘adventurism’’
. Chinese emerging aspects of security
. Energy security
. Environmental security
. Cyber security
. Maritime security

Unlike India, where domestic aspects of security were largely consequences of

the regional problems it faced, China’s domestic and regional security
considerations are fairly distinct. Whether it be the regime’s focus on
battling corruption, or the Uyghur problem on its western borders, or the
growing concerns about economic inequality between urban and rural
dwellers, China deems domestic security issues as fully capable of being dealt
with solely by the state and not open to interference or influence by outside
forces. This lack of restriction on eligible targeting, foci, and participants in



the intelligence gathering process draws a sharp contrast between Western and
non-Western states. China has always manifested very little difference between
intelligence and information, between collection and research, and has made
no operational distinction between the domestic and international arenas. As
a result, some of the greatest high-volume intelligence traffic arguably takes
place inside China, conducted on Chinese by Chinese. Again, given the
formula for discerning strategic intelligence conditions, no argument is made
that this activity is somehow ethically wrong or legally distasteful: that
relative domestic tranquility and stability is a conceit within the Anglosphere
that does not often exist outside of it must now be accepted.
The regional aspects of Chinese security give a strong hint of where
Beijing would be most motivated to insert intelligence efforts within its
immediate neighborhood. Unlike India, which has cross-border problems
that actually bleed into its geographical territory, China is most
concerned with disputes that at the moment do not threaten it internally:
primary among them are the disputes between the two Koreas, the
Indo–Pak rivalry over Kashmir, the ongoing issues with Taiwan, and the
general unrest within Central Asia. Ironically, potential conflicts in
offshore oil and gas fields could end up becoming a primary field of
intelligence operations for China, given how important energy security
and resource scarcity factor into its concerns about future economic
development and instability.
The global aspects of China’s security, though limited by design, are yet
another example of how important are the mitigating factors in
understanding the strategic intelligence condition. Much of the political
culture and contemporary philosophy emanating from the Chinese state
today emphasizes state sovereignty and the principle of non-interference.
Despite these cultural and philosophical leanings, China’s position is
fraught with contradiction: Beijing believes in pushing a grand strategy of
reassurance that emphasizes cooperation with major powers and regional
centers in order to demonstrate that it has benign intentions, even as it
grows ever more powerful.13 What that does not include, however, is the
government’s explicit commitment to simultaneously undermine any and
all balancing coalitions that might be forming against China. More
eloquent, and yet still somewhat contradictory, is a call for China’s
developing a ‘‘more sophisticated grand strategy comprised of four
ongoing changes’’:

. The concept of security must be made more complex to include non-traditional

. Chinese diplomacy must evolve so as to be more issue-based and functional rather
than country-based.



. Economic development must shift from dependence on foreign technology and

export to domestic consumption and sustainable development.
. China’s use of ‘‘soft power’’ must be enhanced so as to embrace shared values like
good governance and transparency.14

These objectives are entirely rational. Perhaps in long-term operational

forecasting these four dimensions will indeed reveal where Chinese intelligence
will begin to focus. But, in the meantime, domestic, regional, and global
reality interferes with such long-term projection. For example, Chinese
intelligence may already be focusing on issue-based operations but those
issues de facto push its personnel into specific countries. Thus, security issues
will insert China into Northeast Asia; economic issues will lead China into
Southeast Asia; energy and resource issues will move China into Central Asia;
island and fishing issues enmesh China in the South and East China Sea.
These issues easily lead Chinese intelligence to focus on Japan, Vietnam, the
Philippines, Malaysia, North Korea, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan, among others.
To move economic development from dependence to sustainability is sound
policy. Yet, that goal does not ignore the fact that China’s economic strategy
still focuses on taking advantage of severe trade=debt imbalances with other
countries, while economic reform to deepen and broaden domestic economic
mobility and prosperity has so far been uneven at best. This reality cannot
help but ultimately press deeply into the Chinese strategic intelligence
condition. In addition, discerning China’s SIC must also consider how soft
power is presently being used to consolidate regime stability, further dominate
regional relationships, and raise the country’s global profile in direct
competition with the United States.
This is yet another perfect example of the malleability of culture, especially
in the area of intelligence analysis. China is clearly expert on understanding
and utilizing the democratic, free-market, and human security buzzwords
when positioning itself on the global stage. But, as one Chinese analyst has
noted, China’s leadership still believes in the two Karls—Marx and von
Clausewitz—in that politics, economics, diplomacy, and military might are
all aspects and tools utilized for the continuation of a single game.15 And
no project that touches upon Chinese political culture and security can do
without a pithy quotation from the inimitable Sun Tzu:

It is preferable to subdue a state whole and intact than to destroy. The skill
in killing does not deserve the highest praise. To conquer the enemy
without resorting to war is most desirable. The adepts in warfare are
those who can conquer the enemy without fighting battles. They can
win a complete victory without as much as wearying their own men.16

In this context a state emerges that has survived for 2500 years following a
strategy of statecraft, diplomacy, and military engagement that reads



exactly like the conceptualization of intelligence conditions offered here. Yet,

despite this philosophical tradition that crosses the ages, many Western
observers of Chinese intelligence find fault with it, based on how little it
mimics Anglosphere conceptions. This fault-finding is misplaced, as China’s
2500-year tradition also exemplifies a relatively merit-based bureaucracy
that long preceded the rise of Weberian-style rationalist administration in
the West and has, to a degree, even withstood the irrational blows of Mao’s
Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. Thus, China’s intelligence
approach surely interacts with culture, but is not dominated solely by
cultural factors. This gives greater affirmation to the assertion that a
formula based on non-Western conditional realities would be a welcome
addition to the West’s analytical intelligence discipline and likely allow for
greater debates featuring more predominant cultural explanations.
Unlike India, which in seeking to step onto the global stage with careful and
measured steps is perhaps still not entirely sure of its ultimate position, China
has long felt comfortable occupying a major portion of that stage and is simply
aiming to ensure that no one violates its national space. The sincerity of India’s
strategic intelligence condition is believable in its advocacy of a polycentric
order for the global community. This does not mean that Indian intelligence
will not take every available opportunity to gather information that could
prove useful to its own position. But it does so in order to assure its status
and to lessen the cacophony of conflict. That same sincerity is not evident
when the Chinese strategic intelligence condition advocates the same
polycentric order and crows about Beijing’s multilateralism and respect for
sovereignty. Such posturing is to be of concern. In this instance, China’s
positioning is not to ensure equality in balance but rather to inculcate a
regional domination and global leverage. China does not want the
responsibility that comes with being a recognized regional or global
superpower like the United States. This status would be seen as inefficient
and wasteful. Its preference is to simply acquire the material, diplomatic,
economic, political, and military benefits endemic to such position while not
having to sacrifice much in order to maintain it. This is the overwhelming
distinction and contrast discerned when comparing the Indian and Chinese
strategic intelligence conditions. Most importantly, this distinction is evident
only when utilizing the formula proposed herein. What remains is to
discover if the third member of this triumvirate offers another unique result.


The intelligence heavyweight in the Russian context is clearly the Federal
Security Bureau (FSB). It enjoys a rather unique all-encompassing status



within the Russian Federation, basically combining the country’s intelligence

community into nine services under its aegis:

. Counterintelligence Service
. Service for Protection of the Constitutional System and the Fight against
. Directorate of Military Counterintelligence
. Economic Security Service
. Analysis, Forecasting, and Strategic Planning Service
. Organizational and Personnel Service
. Border Service
. Control Service
. Science and Technical Service

This state-centric bureaucratic approach is quite familiar to Russia specialists

who have noted the layers of organizational structure and bureaucracy that
implement the Russian tendency of emphasizing state control and hyper
categorization. Nevertheless, in contemporary Russia an overall emphasis
on pragmatic realism remains in regard to the foci of its strategic
intelligence condition. As in India and China, that pragmatic realism
breaks down Russia’s SIC into the same categories, the contents of which
come from a consideration of its national security interests and domestic
regime consolidation priorities. Given that Russia, China, and India share
only a general ‘‘non-Western’’ categorization, that the proposed formula
seems adept at competently covering diverse empirical realities and
differing global power positions is a positive sign.

. Russian domestic aspects of security

. Home-grown radical Islamist movements
. Preserving territorial integrity with troublesome regions
. Political and economic corruption
. Organized crime
. Russian regional aspects of security
. Relations with the Caucasus and Central Asian regions
. Russia as a conduit for weapons, narcotics, and smuggling activity
. Border security
. Reestablishing its role as a player in the Middle East
. Russian global aspects of security
. Preservation of its global power status
. Nuclear treaties and proliferation issues
. Increasing NATO relevance and expansion
. International struggle against terrorism
. Russian emerging aspects of security
. Demographic and environmental security
. Cyber security



If India was most concerned with regional aspects of its security, and China
was most immediately concerned with the domestic aspects of its security,
then the Russian strategic intelligence condition dictates that it should pay
most attention to its domestic and emerging aspects. The mitigating factors
within the formula help explain why Russia at present remains instead
somewhat obsessed with its global security concerns.
Russia’s domestic concerns basically boil down to what it perceives as (1)
lingering problems from the Chechen conflict, and (2) the potential
debilitating consequences that might come from widespread organized
crime that bleeds pervasively into the country’s political and economic
arenas. Its regional concerns are a strange mix of seriousness and parody:
Russia has indeed become a major pass-through for international weapons,
narcotics, and smuggling activity, making its relations with the states of the
Caucasus and Central Asia of primary importance. Additionally, Russia
has notably not entirely shed its former Soviet outlook upon these two
regions, still considering them to be its ‘‘near abroad’’ and under a unique
Russian influence. That the states of the Caucasus and Central Asia do not
necessarily share this viewpoint is immaterial to Russian intelligence.
Russia is distinct from India and China in that the emerging aspects of its
security have a tinge of immediacy. The demographic and environmental
consequences, a full generation after the demise of the Soviet Union, have
presented Russia with a view on the future that is disturbingly bleak.
Russia has been a prominent voice on the global stage in matters of cyber
security. Yet, once again, its positions are a strange hybrid of positive and
negative: Russia, like China, staunchly advocates greater restrictions and
oversight in the cyber domain. But this demand stems not so much from a
fear of cyber terrorism as it does from worries about the cyber domain’s
grassroots potential on Russian state power.
Despite this list of significant problems that need greater attention from
the Russian intelligence community, the global aspects category looms
perhaps larger than the domestic in the Russian intelligence psyche. This
provides yet another important subtlety when considering the SIC formula:
states prioritize their security aspects. Knowing that prioritization reveals
how Moscow’s intelligence resources and assets are distributed, based upon
a mixture of hard data and perceived danger. Russia might be unique in
that its focus on the global is a testimony to a cultural=philosophical ethos
best described as ‘‘lingering Dostoyevskian messianism,’’ which should be
taken here as a symbol of analytical sincerity: cultural factors are herein
not excised from explanatory frameworks. Rather, these often esoteric
perspectives incorporate a formula that includes other, more tangible,
aspects of national security and intelligence. In so doing, arguably, the
analyst becomes better equipped to deliver a more complete and timely



That most of Russia’s greatest writers have been deeply philosophical,

political, and religious (the list is truly daunting, ranging from Lomonosov
to Derzhavin to Dostoyevsky to Tolstoy to Mayakovsky and onward) is
no accident. This cultural legacy lives on today in its contemporary
thinkers on national security, best exemplified by the work that emerges
from the FSB, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and powerful academic
institutions like MGIMO. The most vibrant piece of contemporary
evidence testifying to this ‘‘Great Russian’’ philosophical tendency was the
development of a ‘‘National Security Concept’’ at the turn of the 21st
century. This differs from a national security strategy that was apparently
too straightforward and ahistorical for Russian thinkers. Defining an
underlining concept was deemed necessary before a formal strategy could
be adopted. As Vassily Krivokhizha noted:
In this regard, and it is essential once again to emphasize this, it is quite
obvious that the Russian Federation national security concept at this
historical stage must be constructed in a way that takes into account
the distinctive features of the current moment and its characteristic
peculiarities. Among the latter one could name the following:

. The number, scale, and dynamic of factors that determine the security
of the country under the conditions of a systemic crisis; their relative
significance, including the role of factors of a subjective nature; and
especially society’s perception of being subject to rapid changes.
. Under acute social and ideological confrontation, in which the old
social, political, and ideological reference points have been devalued
and new ones have not been accepted by many layers of society, we
are witnessing the restructuring of all mechanisms of support for the
security of the country, beginning with the state apparatus and
ending at the level of social ties.
. The transition to a new, stable condition is proceeding along
trajectories that are difficult to predict, and in this respect factors of
strategic planning and linkups between certain tactical steps and
long-term interests are often absent, as a result of which most
decisions are reactions to the prior actions of politicians and to the
often unfavorable course of events.
. There is an ideological vacuum, caused by the rejection of any theory,
and an erosion of new social reference points.

A concept of national security considers the accumulated experiences and

generalizations of a variety of factors that determine the adequacy of the
vital functions of state and society and the changing domestic and
international environment. Strictly speaking, from the methodological
point of view, a national security concept should theoretically
substantiate the ways of achieving the most preferable place for the
country in the paradigm of global security on the basis of a strict



consideration of its own interests and its opportunities in a particular

historical period. . . . Thus, to summarize the existing views on this
issue, all the ‘‘enlightened countries’’ would be satisfied with the
transformation of the Russian state into a sufficiently stable but very
free confederative system with numerous economic zones that would
fall under the sphere of the economic interests and influence of this or
that group of countries, which would objectively promote the internal
economic breakup of Russia. In this, perhaps, lies the hidden essence
of the conflict of Russia with the outside world.17

Krivokhizha’s analysis provides a true sense of how deep Russian

messianism, and to a certain extent paranoia, still runs through the
community responsible for its national security policy and intelligence
priorities. Whereas China may find domestic enemies of the state to suit its
contemporary purposes and objectives, Beijing’s pursuit is relatively
pragmatic and impersonal and devoid of any aspect of religious fervor.
What remains prevalent in Russian national security and intelligence
thinking is the ability to attribute local problems as caused by global
enemies. 18 Combined with Moscow’s continued need and passion to
remain a primary player on the global stage, as co-equals with the United
States and China, the resulting volatile mix applies intelligence assets in
areas and for purposes that most intelligence communities would prefer to
avoid. If non-Western states like India and China find it unwise to
decouple their intelligence apparatus from domestic politics, they
nevertheless do not intend to have their respective intelligence conditions
infused by a dogma capable of pushing policy from pragmatism to
paranoia. Unfortunately, this potential exists in the Russian intelligence
community, at least at the philosophical and agenda-setting levels.
Perhaps, given this tendency to wax poetic in the national security and
intelligence domain, that Russia was the one to come forward and
romantically describe the potential of Chinese–Indian–Russian interaction
is not entirely surprising. As Mikhail Titarenko put it:

The reaffirmation of the Panchsheel as a code of conduct in international

relations by China, India, and Russia is an important step towards the
emergence of a polycentric world order which . . . is bound to replace the
current unstable unipolar system. Bilateral and trilateral agreements
between the three nations pave the way for this global transformation.
. . . The format of trilateral cooperation represents a sort of practical
realization of the Panchsheel principles, which include respect of one’s
own and one another’s interests as well as interests of other countries,
and willingness to find a common basis for broad cooperation and
interaction without resorting to confrontation. . . . The growing
interaction of three world giants—Russia, China, India—with their
foreign-policy representing the consistent realization of Panchsheel



principles is bound to contribute substantially to the development of a

polycentric, fair, and democratic world order based on principles of
peaceful coexistence. . . . While discussing the role of the USA in the
context of trilateral interaction between Russia, China, and India, we
came to the shared understanding that such interaction was not targeted
against the US or any other third party, and further, was based on the
clearly recognize interest of each of the three countries in improving
their relations with Washington. At the same time, our discussions
evinced an obvious consensus that objectives for political cooperation
between Russia, China, and India must include, among others,
convincing the US partner that there are no realistic prospects of
success in unilateralism and that repudiation of the latter would meet
the interests of the world community and of the USA itself.19

Being an expert in the various philosophical musings that seem to run

rampant through Russian national security and intelligence thinking is not
necessary. The trends simply act as further confirmation of the SIC
formula’s agility. In each case a careful consideration of the state’s
national security interests and domestic consolidation priorities, lensed
through the mitigating factors of foreign policy, relationship legacies, and
culture, have discerned a strategic intelligence condition that not only
defines what kind of information each particular state will try to obtain
but also which organizations, people, and states would be the likely
candidates on which each country’s intelligence community likely focus in
collecting information. Left to consider now are the larger consequences
and overall impact of this analysis.


Any intellectual consensus on the need to emerge from and move past the
dominance of cultural explanations of intelligence. It would require that the
first step embrace the innate ‘‘moving target’’ nature of non-Western
intelligence conditions and the need to develop intelligence experts adept and
comfortable in operating across numerous disciplines: political science,
political economy, international relations, and foreign policy, with dashes of
sociology, religion, and philosophy thrown in for good measure. Perhaps even
more important is the endorsement of an intellectual openness in regard to
how non-Western states will both define and conceptualize intelligence. The
pronounced tendency in the West is to look for methods and approaches to
intelligence that are universally applicable, beholden to norms-based
constraints, and adamant about separation between domestic and global
spheres of operation.



These tendencies have led to much confusion and frustration in discerning

the strategic intelligence conditions of India, China, Russia, and many other
countries falling outside of the West. I have proposed a conceptualization for
building SICs that purposely ignores and avoids those tendencies in order to
accomplish three basic things:

1. Provide a broader and simpler definition of intelligence that is more empirically

appropriate and accurate for the non-Western arena;
2. Account for the elimination of constraints and restrictions on intelligence
gathering that is supported in the West but is not realistic or practical for most
non-Western state consolidation agendas; and
3. Elaborate a concise and simplified formula for how non-Western states prioritize the
information they seek to gather, and from whom that information is likely to come.

The emphasis here has been on a definition that intelligence is insight from
information by any means necessary. Thus, a formula has been created in
which national security interests are combined with domestic consolidation
priorities, and softened by the mitigating factors of foreign policy,
relationship legacies, and culture. Thus, the strategic intelligence conditions
for three very diverse and unique states—India, China, and Russia—have
been teased out in some fairly new and interesting ways.
Not only does the formula provide the specific distinction points between
Western and non-Western intelligence communities, it demonstrates how
much diversity exists across non-Western cases even when they may be facing
similar problems and conflicts. Indeed, an easily missed larger analytical point
is that discerning the SICs of states like India, China, and Russia is not in
fact based on a fundamental and eternal cultural divide that prevents Western
analysts from ever being able to truly comprehend non-Western intelligence
thought, but rather, that those problems are more the result of demanding
universality and repeatable standards across intelligence arenas regardless of
national security priorities and empirical reality. I suggest that such a path
leads only to inaccurate assessments. National security interests provide
answers as to what intelligence information needs to be gathered. Domestic
regime-consolidation challenges—unfortunately endemic to non-Western
states and not usually on the agenda for Western ones—provide answers as to
the ‘‘from whom’’ this information needs to come. Foreign policy,
relationship legacies, and culture shape and shadow aspects of the process:
they are undoubtedly important and relevant, but not exclusive or dominant,
factors worthy of crowding out competing or alternative approaches and ideas.
The Western perspective on intelligence reflects the long relationship
between liberal democratic states managing global capitalist relations and
their state intelligence capacities. As China, Russia, and India become ever
more important participants in the global capitalist system, the degree to



which some elements of Western intelligence thinking that may seem narrowly
Western-centric may increasingly buy into the analysis of non-Western
intelligence conditions in the future is worth pondering. For example, the
constraints that Western thinking imposes on the domestic role of
intelligence are indeed largely absent in China. But as China intensifies
internal marketization, which in the global capitalist context inevitably
involves greater foreign investment in China, how long will it be before the
rule of law and state accountability become more relevant as economic
conditions and a more Western appreciation of domestic limitations on
intelligence emerges? If that happens, the debate over the applicability of
the Anglosphere beyond the West will become much more intense and
fascinating. But for now that hasn’t happened.
The formula offered here for rethinking non-Western intelligence analysis has
been given an acute affirmation by recent events in Crimea. Presently, many in
the West have criticized the American Intelligence Community for not correctly
predicting or anticipating the Russian incursion into Crimea and eastern
Ukraine. But that view is largely a legacy of the over-dependency on cultural
affiliation. In such analyses, envisioning a scenario wherein Russia moves
against Ukraine—the spiritual, historical, and cultural birthplace of all
Russians with the Kievan Rus—was nearly inconceivable. However, when the
SIC formula developed here is employed, the greater emphasis moves to
political and economic considerations between Moscow and the ousted
Yanukovych government, and the likelihood that the leaders of the Maidan
revolution would be much more intimate and cozy with the European Union
(EU). This shifting of alliances would ultimately undermine many agreements
made between Russia and Ukraine before Maidan that approved the
movement of more Russian troops into the Sevastopol Naval base in Crimea
and an increase in infrastructure projects that would physically connect
Crimea to the Russian mainland, let alone natural gas distribution
arrangements that severely impact Russia’s national economic standing. When
Maidan is viewed from those perspectives (as is necessary with the SIC
formula), the Russian intelligence action is then logically understood and even
arguably justified. When the Maidan revolution and Crimean hostilities are
viewed from an argument akin to ‘‘the Kievan Rus cultural alliance between
Slavic brothers,’’ the Crimean incursion is then completely and
understandably missed.
In some ways, this study inverts the traditional approach to the building of
strategic intelligence conditions, where national security interests and
domestic concerns are at best mere backdrops for the supposedly more
important issues of ancient alliances, immutable culture, and rigid history.
Some of the problems faced by scholars and intelligence practitioners may
not arise from the subject being studied but rather from the manner in
which the research is being initially framed and subsequently pursued.



Perhaps this study will lead to more open discussions within Intelligence
Studies and the use of multiple explanatory frameworks in discerning
nations’ strategic interest conditions.

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