Is there a good definition of active measures in a political warfare context? Wikipedia has an article on active measures in that context, but it lacks a concise definition. Rather than stating a definition it describes different types of active measures.

I'm looking for a succinct definition, perhaps as used in government or law-enforcement. I've searched the DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms but it doesn't list active measures.

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    This term is a Russian euphemism for covert attacks and various kinds of terroristic activity on foreign territory. Since it has not been officially condemned (yet), I'm afraid there is no publicly available formal definition of this term nor a list of actions that qualify for this definition. Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 14:39
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    @bytebuster the term is also used by American counterintelligence (I have no link ready, but I have heard it used in interviews recently). There even used to be an Active Measures Working Group.
    – JJJ
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 14:47
  • This terminology is highly context dependent. Your question isn't clear enough to convey what you mean.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 23:38
  • @ohwilleke I tried to clarify it. Is the political warfare context specific enough? If not, please explain the ambiguity or different contexts in political warfare.
    – JJJ
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 23:45
  • I commented because I couldn't figure out what the heck you were talking about. Perhaps an example or news story would be helpful.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 23:47

1 Answer 1


Dennis Cux, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and in that role the first chairman of the Active Measures Working Group, wrote an article on this. I don't know for sure where the article was published originally (but I think it's this book on Amazon), but it's now available on the CIA's website. The quote relevant to the question is (I emphasised parts that I think are especially relevant):

In Soviet intelligence doctrine, the concept of "active measures" covers a wide span of practices including disinformation operations, political influence efforts, and the activities of Soviet front groups and foreign communist parties. All active measures have the common goal of enhancing Soviet influence, usually by tarnishing the image of opponents. They generally involve elements of deception and often employ clandestine means to mask Moscow's hand in the operation.

Overall, where active measures fit in the Soviet framework may be better understood by considering the whole spectrum of Soviet foreign policy endeavors through the optic of "white," "gray," and "black" operations. Normal diplomatic, trade, aid, and informational efforts can be considered "white" or overt activities. "Gray" activities are those involving communist fronts, foreign communist parties, "clandestine" radio stations, or well-known media outlets for disinformation. While not officially acknowledged to be Soviet sponsored, semi-over "gray" activities are widely known as under Soviet direction and control. In contrast, "black" activities involve genuinely clandestine operations: the use of agents of influence, spreading false rumors, duping politicians and journalists, and disseminating forgeries and fake documents.

Active measures fall under either the "gray" or the "black" rubric, although the line between the semi-overt and the clandestine is often blurred.

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