Leaked classified documents paint grim picture of Ukraine

That treasure trove of leaked classified documents is still spilling secrets, but perhaps the most consequential revelation is the U.S. government’s grim assessment of the prospects for the Ukrainian spring offensive. President Biden’s rhetoric regarding Ukrainian resistance to the invasion increasingly appears to be wildly overoptimistic happy talk, designed to assure Americans that he’s managing the NATO coalition just fine, the military aid to Kyiv is arriving in a timely fashion, and Russia really is diplomatically and economically isolated.

A Grim Ukraine Assessment

President Joe Biden, speaking in Kyiv alongside Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, February 20: “This is the largest land war in Europe in three quarters of a century, and you’re succeeding against all and every expectation, except your own. We have every confidence that you’re going to continue to prevail.”

But apparently, the U.S. government does not have every confidence that Ukraine is going to prevail. Here is the actual assessment of U.S. intelligence, according to the Washington Post this morning:

Ukraine’s challenges in massing troops, ammunition and equipment could cause its military to fall “well short” of Kyiv’s original goals for an anticipated counteroffensive aimed at retaking Russian-occupied areas this spring, according to U.S. intelligence assessments contained in a growing leak of classified documents revealing Washington’s misgivings about the state of the war.

Labeled “top secret,” the bleak assessment from early February warns of significant “force generation and sustainment shortfalls,” and the likelihood that such an operation will result in only “modest territorial gains.” It’s a marked departure from the Biden administration’s public statements about the vitality of Ukraine’s military and is likely to embolden critics who feel the United States and NATO should do more to push for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

The document adds that, “Enduring Ukrainian deficiencies in training and munitions supplies probably will strain progress and exacerbate casualties during the offensive.”

As I said yesterday, this is bad. It is bad that this assessment leaked; it is bad that this assessment of Ukraine’s abilities in the spring offensive are so modest or grim; it is bad that apparently lots of foreign-policy experts have doubts about the administration’s approach but are afraid to say so publicly; and it is bad that Biden’s public assessment of the war in Ukraine is the same rosy-eyed, unrealistic optimism that characterized his assessment of Afghanistan, inflation, migrants crossing the border, and the Chinese spy balloon. The president is always telling us that things are going great and that we have nothing to worry about, and a little later, we learn that the truth is the opposite.

While in Kyiv, President Biden also boasted that:

We built a coalition of nations, from the Atlantic to the Pacific: NATO to the Atla- — in the Atlantic; Japan in the Pacific. I mean, across the — across the world, the number of nations stood up — over 50 — to help Ukraine defend itself with unprecedented military, economic, and humanitarian support. We united the leading economies of the world to impose unprecedented cost that are squeezing Russia’s economic lifelines.

Yes, a lot of countries around the globe are, at least publicly, denouncing the Russian invasion and sending various forms of aid to Ukraine. But it is fair to doubt how thoroughly they support Ukraine, or how much they really oppose Russian aggression. Egypt, for example, is officially neutral, and it voted to condemn the Russian invasion at the United Nations. The Egyptian Red Crescent helped evacuate Egyptian students and families after they had fled to Poland and Romania, and, working alongside the Polish and Romanian Red Cross Societies, established two relief centers at the Ukrainian–Romanian and Ukrainian–Polish borders. Egypt imports a lot of wheat, corn, and sunflower-seed oil from Ukraine.

Oh, but apparently, the Egyptian government also explored the option of secretly selling rockets to Russia, according to the leaked documents:

President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi of Egypt, one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East and a major recipient of U.S. aid, recently ordered subordinates to produce up to 40,000 rockets to be covertly shipped to Russia, according to a leaked U.S. intelligence document.

A portion of a top secret document, dated Feb. 17, summarizes purported conversations between Sisi and senior Egyptian military officials and also references plans to supply Russia with artillery rounds and gunpowder. In the document, Sisi instructs the officials to keep the production and shipment of the rockets secret “to avoid problems with the West.”

President Biden likes to boast that “nobody” f-words with him. Well, apparently the Egyptians are willing to mess around, and do not fear what they will find out. Keep in mind, the U.S. usually provides Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid each year and a separate $174 million or so in foreign aid.

Wait, there’s more. The Associated Press finds documents indicating the government of the United Arab Emirates is building a closer relationship with the Russian FSB:

U.S. spies caught Russian intelligence officers boasting that they had convinced the oil-rich United Arab Emirates “to work together against US and UK intelligence agencies,” according to a purported American document posted online as part of a major U.S. intelligence breach.

U.S. officials declined to comment on the document, which bore known top-secret markings and was viewed by The Associated Press. The Emirati government on Monday dismissed any accusation that the UAE had deepened ties with Russian intelligence as “categorically false.”

But the U.S. has had growing concerns that the UAE was allowing Russia and Russians to thwart sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia is still finding plenty of open markets for its energy exports; oil exports to India have increased 2,200 percent. Russia claims that it has rerouted its oil from the European market to buyers in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, although oil and gas production were expected to decline this year because of the sanctions and a lack of access to those European consumers. And there’s considerable evidence that a decent amount of Russian oil is still ending up used by European consumers after transiting through middlemen to work around the sanctions.

Publicly, many nations of the world are denouncing the Russian invasion. Secretly, apparently a lot of regimes are eager to cut a deal with Putin. In Kyiv, Biden boasted that, “Russia’s economy is now a backwater, isolated and struggling.” That’s not really the case, and it’s unclear whether the president is just spinning or whether he’s being accurately briefed — or whether he just sees and hears what he wants to see and hear.

Last month, this newsletter noted that immediately after the downing of the MQ-9 Reaper drone, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called his Russian counterpart and told him that the “United States will fly and operate wherever international law allows,” including in air space near Ukraine. Then, a week later, the administration revealed that the drones have altered their routes and are staying further away from Ukraine “to avoid being too provocative.”

The leaked documents suggest that the U.S. is now keeping its drones about 50 miles from the Crimean coast:

A map on the document shows a boundary drawn over sections of the Black Sea to mark where surveillance planes may fly. It appears to begin about 12 miles off the coast of Crimea, adhering to international law. The map also includes a second line about 50 miles from the shore labeled “SECDEF Directed Standoff,” indicating that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin may have ordered U.S. pilots to keep aircraft farther from the peninsula.

The administration is not playing it straight with the American public when it comes to Ukraine. An inability to see the situation clearly and communicate the situation without any sugarcoating is a formula for long-term problems.
Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher is the editor and publisher of High Plains Pundit. Dan is also the host of the popular High Plains Pundit Podcast.

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