Friends Disunited: Explaining US-UK Covert Action in Albania

Stephen Long*, Rory Cormac

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


States have long engaged in covert action, often in conjunction with partners and/or formal allies. Yet existing histories often take a single-state approach, neglecting how dynamics between co-instigators shaped the case studies. This article draws on recently declassified archival material to examine the supposed ‘joint’ US-UK covert action in Albania, a formative and significant case study of the early Cold War. It addresses the puzzle of why the Anglo-Americans intervened together despite not sharing common mission objectives, nor valuing each other’s contribution. Contrary to existing assumptions, the article finds that, as the operation developed, it had more to do with internal dynamics between the aligned states–efforts by London and Washington to influence each other–than with any commitment to undermine the Albanian regime. These findings–that the internal process came to outweigh the external outcome–reveal that Albania was less a cooperative joint endeavour and more an episode punctuated by manipulation and distrust between two supposed friends. This has important implications for wider understandings of the international history of covert action, as well as the impact of international cooperation, secrecy and ambiguity in shaping the objectives, execution and outcomes of covert action involving multiple actors.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational History Review
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Albania
  • CIA
  • covert action
  • International cooperation
  • MI6


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