Discover more from Meaning In History
Fog Of War: Intel Sharing
Over the last few days the internet has been buzzing over the NYT report that “senior American officials” were whispering in the ears of NYT reporters that “The US has provided intelligence that has helped Ukrainians target and kill many of the Russian generals who have died in action in the Ukraine war.” I wrote about that here: How Smart Is It For The US To Be Helping To Kill Russian Generals? That report was followed by another—sourced to “US officials”, no word on their seniority or lack thereof—claiming that US intel sharing with Ukraine had accounted for the sinking of the Russian cruiser Moskva, flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. These braggadocious claims seemed to many, including myself, to be remarkably reckless and provocative. That, in turn, has led some to speculate that the Zhou administration is actually seeking to provoke open war with Russia for domestic political reasons—the Midterm Elections, imposition of authoritarian control over dissent, etc.
Now, however, identifiable Pentagon officials—people with names, like, “John Kirby”—are walking back the claims of the anonymous “senior American officials” and “US officials”. This leads to speculation that is little less disturbing than the idea that elements within the US government—carefully concealed behind deliberately vague sourcing statements—are, in fact, attempting to walk the US up to the brink of war, but that other elements, prominently in the Pentagon, are resisting rushin’ to war. We have repeatedly pointed to this dynamic throughout the course of Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine.
That the US government is so divided on the core issue of war or peace with a nuclear power is disturbing in and of itself. That one faction in the government is attempting to go over the heads of the Pentagon on the issue of a war of choice adds to the concern. The fact that the sources are identified so vaguely is further cause for concern, since it suggests a lack of military expertise. That this semi-public debate is taking place with essentially no significant input from the one constitutional institution of the American republic which has the authority to declare a war—the legislative branch—or meaningful public debate should raise our concerns to the level of alarm.
There are various accounts out there about the Pentagon pushback. Here are excerpts from the Zerohedge account. Note that Kirby is willing to speak with a degree of specificity on the the record, unlike the “senior American officials”:
The Pentagon on Friday denied that it provided Ukrainian forces with intelligence that led to the sinking of the Russian Black Sea warship Moskva, which was struck reportedly by Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles on April 14 and marked the most disastrous single Russian loss to date.
"We did not provide Ukraine with specific targeting information for the Moskva," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement, following the night prior NBC cited US officials who said that intelligence-sharing led to the missile cruiser's sinking.
He added: "We were not involved in the Ukrainians' decision to strike the ship or in the operation they carried out," and that, "We had no prior knowledge of Ukraine's intent to target the ship. The Ukrainians have their own intelligence capabilities to track and target Russian naval vessels, as they did in this case."
Either Kirby is parsing his words very carefully in a 'plausible deniability' type way (for example: hinging on precise definition of "specific targeting information" etc), or it could be that it wasn't US military intelligence per se that was involved... as in the Central Intelligence Agency was possibly behind it, making it not under the purview of the Department of Defense/Pentagon.
Moon of Alabama has also weighed in. Interestingly, Moon is calling BS on the whole story—although he shares our concerns about what’s behind it all. He also makes the surmise that should have occurred to most observers, that the vaguely defined “senior American officials” have their desks at the National Security Council.
Moon first addresses the ‘US helping to kill Russian generals story’:
The geniuses (not) at the National Security Council want to goad Russia into direct attacks on U.S. forces or interests. That would give the U.S. an excuse to further escalate the war in Ukraine into an open confrontation. It would also diverts the attention away from domestic problems.
To achieve this the NSC has pushed a number of stories to the media which claim that alleged Ukrainian successes are based on U.S. intelligence.
The story is obvious bullshit because there are only two Russian generals who have died so far during the Russian campaign in Ukraine.
Major General Andrey Sukhovetsky was killed on February 28 and Major General Vladimir Frolov was killed in early April. Both deaths were immediately officially acknowledged and reported in Russian media. Both men were buried with military honors.
All other 'killed Russian generals' are victims of the 'ghost of Kiev'. The Ukrainian propaganda apparatus likes such stories because it knows that 'western' media will pick up on them.
Moon then turns to the Moskva incident, also rejecting that narrative, although not as emphatically:
It is in fact still not clear what has happened to the Moskva. Russia only said that the ship had an explosion on board that ripped the hull below the waterline and caused a fire. There are other possibilities but hits by two Ukrainian anti-ship missiles seem unlikely.
The Pentagon again denied any direct involvement:
Russia will not react to such stupid stories. It knows that the U.S. is pushing all kinds of battlefield information as well as weapons to the Ukrainians. It is also assumed that foreign generals are 'consulting' the general staff of the Ukrainian forces. Neither will help the Ukraine to win the war.
Over the longer term Russia may well seek revenge for the U.S. proxy war against it. But President Putin is a patient man and revenge is a dish best served cold.
We’ll close with two more NatSec updates.