Leaked US, NATO documents on Ukraine’s military operation show ‘serious disunity within the West’

Yang Sheng, Global Times, April 9, 2023 —

The recent leak of classified US and NATO documents on the Ukrainian military and Kiev’s much-anticipated “spring counteroffensive” has exposed that disunity, distrust and divergences among the US, the West and Ukraine are serious and keep worsening, said Chinese experts. They noted that the incident further proves that Washington is the biggest obstacle for the international community to promote a cease-fire and peace talks for the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

According to US media, the US Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the leak that was posted on social media in recent weeks.

CNN reported on Saturday that the investigation comes as new documents surfaced Friday covering everything from US support for Ukraine to information about key US allies like Israel, widening the fallout from the already alarming leak. The Pentagon on Thursday said it was looking into the matter after social media posts of apparently classified documents on the war in Ukraine had emerged.

“They look real,” a US official told CNN about the leaked documents. CNBC News also reported on Saturday that the documents that appeared online “are likely real” and “the result of a leak,” but that some of the documents may have been altered before they were posted, a senior US official said on Saturday.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement on Telegram that the leak is a “Russian information operation” and does not reveal Kiev’s “actual operational plans,” the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

A Chinese expert on international security and intelligence who asked for anonymity told the Global Times on Sunday that “the leak is unlikely caused by Russian intelligence agencies, because this does not make sense.”

If Russia has obtained these classified documents, it would not post them online, because this will make Russia lose the source or sources that had provided these documents, he said. He noted that there is no reason for Russia to let its enemies know that it has obtained this intelligence, because this will also make its enemies change plans, making the hard-won military intelligence useless.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, said that the leaked documents expose “many disadvantages and shortcomings of Ukrainian military forces. This is absolutely not good news for Ukraine.”

The leak, the source of which remains unknown, reveals the US’ assessment of a Ukrainian military that is itself in dire straits, The New York Times reported on Saturday. The leaked material, from late February and early March but found on social media sites in recent days, outlines “critical shortages of air defense munitions” and discusses “the gains being made by Russian troops around the eastern city of Bakhmut.”

Ukrainian presidential advisor Podolyak said the documents provided only a “statistical analysis of supplies, possible operational and tactical plans, as well as a large volume of fictitious information.”

Whether the leak is real or not, they have wrought damage on Kiev. Even if these documents contain fictitious information, they will damage the morale of the Ukrainian military and the confidence of Western countries in continuing to support Kiev to win the fight against Moscow. The response of the Ukrainian official shows that Kiev is nervous, and the US investigation proves the incident is very serious, said experts.

The above-quoted anonymous expert said that it is still a question that who leaked these documents online, but based on the reactions of the relevant parties, it was probably caused by the disunity within the US. “Democrats and Republicans have long-existing divergences on the price that Washington should pay for supporting Kiev to fight Moscow. Many US policymakers are losing faith to completely defeat Moscow, so they might want to use the leak to ruin the existing plan of supporting Ukraine and to decrease the US inputs in the new plan,” he noted.

If the old plan of a “spring counteroffensive” cannot be executed, and the inputs from the US decrease, this will further shake the determination of other NATO members in Europe to keep their support, said experts. In other words, disunity, divergence and distrust among the US, Ukraine and NATO have been exposed by the leak and will keep worsening, they noted.

Song said the incident will also damage ties between the US and its allies around the globe. Countries that have military cooperation with the US will be worried that the US is unable to keep their secrets and will even spy on them and leak their secrets to the media or online, Song noted.

The New York Times reported on Saturday that the leaked intelligence reports seem to indicate that “the United States is also spying on Ukraine’s top military and political leaders, a reflection of Washington’s struggle to get a clear view of Ukraine’s fighting strategies.”

“Just like the PRISM program leaked by Edward Snowden has proved, the US is spying on its allies, whether close or not, and this is how the US keeps its hegemony,” Song told the Global Times on Sunday. “More importantly, the US doubts Ukraine’s determination to keep up the fight.”

Washington hopes Kiev and its NATO allies to maintain the conflict at all costs and it wants an unrealistic and costly result – a complete defeat of Russia. But maybe Ukraine, after having suffered from huge amount of casualties without meaningful progress on the battlefield, wants to seek the possibility of a cease-fire and solve its problems with Russia via talks. This is why the US is spying on Ukraine, said experts, adding that it just once again proves that Washington is the biggest obstacle for a political and peaceful solution for the crisis.

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