An Austin Powers movie helped inspire the US strategy of exposing Russia's tactics in Ukraine, a national security advisor says

An Austin Powers movie helped inspire the US strategy of exposing Russia's tactics in Ukraine, a national security advisor says
Mike Meyers and the late Verne Troyer in the 1999 movie 'Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.'Getty Images
  • US Nat. Sec. advisor took inspiration from Austin Powers as Russia prepared its invasion, Politico said.
  • The situation reminded him of a scene in the cult comedy movie where a steamroller moves forward.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said he took inspiration from an unlikely source in figuring out how to warn the world of the urgent threat posed by Russia as it geared up to invade Ukraine.

Speaking to Politico, Sullivan discussed the situation in the months leading up to the February 2022 invasion, where many leaders in Ukraine and European capitals remained skeptical that Russia would follow through with an invasion.

He said in November 2021, he had been discussing a scene in the 1997 spy comedy "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," with Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer.

"There's a steamroller on the far side of the room, and a guy standing there, holding up his hand, and shouting, "No!" Then they zoom out, and the steamroller is moving incredibly slowly and is really far away," said Sullivan.

"The guy's just standing there, frozen, shouting as it inches across the room. I said I was determined that we were not going to be that guy — just waiting for the steamroller to roll over Ukraine. We were going to act."


He said the US wanted to avoid a repeat of the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, when US officials had seen a stream of classified US intelligence indicating Russia's intentions, yet had felt powerless as they couldn't share the information with the public.

Sullivan said that he and other top national security officials settled on the unprecedented strategy of declassifying US intelligence about Russia's plans. They wanted to highlight the urgency of the situation to the rest of the world, as the Kremlin continued to deny it was planning an invasion.

"All the conditions were there for us to try something new and bold, but risky. It was a gamble that this would work," Emily Horne, a former National Security Council spokeswoman told the publication.

Ahead of the war, the US made several releases of declassified information to pre-empt and stymie the Kremlin's plans.

The documents exposed that the Kremlin's denials that it was planning to invade Ukraine were false. They also released how Russia planned on toppling the government in Kyiv, and its plans to push disinformation to justify the invasion.


The releases did not prevent the invasion but are credited with helping galvanize European support behind Ukraine.

In recent days, reports say the US is considering deploying the strategy again to expose what it claims are Chinese plans to send lethal aid to Russia for its war effort.