Originally Posted by KC_Connection
Varys has been portrayed with more honorable intentions than Littlefinger (and really in a much better light overall), but it's hard to say for sure with him.
I see Varys as more of a self serving person, much like Littlefinger. He just goes about it a different way. By different way, I guess, I mean his asperations aren't as high as Littlefinger's. Maybe, if we saw what Varys was like when he was younger, trying to become a Lord, we would see him more like Baelish, but as it stands he seems content with his station, therefore he just needs to keep himself alive and worthwhile.
I think he uses that line, "My duty is to the realm," as a means to convince whomever he is speaking with of his dedication and as a way of appearing to desire an alliance (as long as it benefits him). He will give aid to anyone that can gain him favor and will help maintain his position, but as soon as his position is in question, he severs that tie. As we saw with Ned.
He has no allegiances, no loyalties. He just uses the info he collects to stay a step ahead of the game and provides just enough intel to everyone to make himself seem needed and important.