- Ex-US officials said the Biden administration needs to “shut-up” about intelligence sharing with Ukraine.
- This came after a NYT report said US intel was helping Ukraine kill Russian generals.
- A veteran diplomat said discussing intelligence used for targeting would bolster Putin’s propaganda about Russia being a victim.
Former US officials and diplomats in recent days have sharply criticized the Biden administration over a New York Times report based on conversations with senior officials that said US intelligence was helping Ukraine kill Russian generals.
“Shut up about it,” John Sipher, a former CIA officer who served in Russia, said in a tweet on the Times report.
Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, in a tweet responding to Sipher said, “Exactly. No one should be talking to press about such things.”
Striking a similar tone, former US diplomat Aaron David Miller tweeted that the “whole shift in tone” following Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit to Ukraine is “worrisome.”
“Weakening Russia; winning; and now stories @NYT about killing Russian generals. Why can’t we just shut up?” Miller said.
The intel-sharing reports by the NYT and NBC News suggested, without specifying, that the US shared intelligence so precise — such as high-resolution images or transmissions made by radars or radios — that the Ukrainian military could use it to plan strikes. The NYT reported that the “White House finds some value in warning Russia that Ukraine has the weight of the United States and NATO behind it,” but the Pentagon insisted that it doesn’t provide the location of Russian generals to Ukraine and has no role in Ukrainian decisions about where to strike.
After a trip to Kyiv last month, Austin told reporters, “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”
Austin’s frank comments came a few weeks after President Joe Biden was accused of calling for regime change in Russia after he said Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.” The White House scrambled to clarify the Biden’s remarks, stating, “The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia or regime change.”
Following up on Austin’s comments, a National Security Council spokesperson in a statement to CNN said, “We want Ukraine to win,” adding, “One of our goals has been to limit Russia’s ability to do something like this again, as Secretary Austin said. That’s why we are arming the Ukrainians.”
On the heels of the bombshell Times story, a separate report from NBC News said that US intelligence also helped Ukraine sink the Moskva — a guided missile cruiser and the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
Richard Haass, a veteran diplomat and president of the Council on Foreign Relations, in a tweet responding to reports on the Moskva said he couldn’t “fathom why US officials are discussing US helping Ukraine sink Russian ships or kill its generals.”
Haass warned that “this bolsters Putin’s narrative that Russia is a victim” while distracting “attention from the reality of Russian aggression and its incompetence vs Ukraine.”
The Biden administration has forcefully pushed back on the notion it has explicitly provided intelligence to Ukraine for the purpose of taking out specific people or targets.
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson on Wednesday said the Times report was framed in an “irresponsible” way.
“The United States provides battlefield intelligence to help the Ukrainians defend their country. We do not provide intelligence with the intent to kill Russian generals,” Watson added.
Similarly, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby on Thursday said the US doesn’t “provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military.”
Kirby in a statement said the US didn’t provide Ukraine “specific targeting information for the Moskva,” per NBC.
“We were not involved in the Ukrainians’ decision to strike the ship or in the operation they carried out,” Kirby went on to say, adding, “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.”
The Biden administration said the reports on US intel sharing were a result of leaks. “Leaks like this and stories like this, they’re unhelpful to the effort to help Ukraine defend itself,” Kirby told CNN on Friday morning.
—Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn)
May 6, 2022
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov seemed to brush off the reports on US intelligence sharing with Ukraine.
The Russian military is “well aware that the United States, Great Britain and NATO as a whole are constantly transmitting intelligence and other parameters to the Ukrainian armed forces,” Peskov told reporters on Thursday, Reuters reported.
Peskov said that the intelligence sharing, combined with the weapons the West is giving Ukraine, doesn’t “contribute to the quick completion” of Russia’s war. But he added that it also won’t hinder Russia’s ability to achieve its goals in Ukraine.
Contrary to Peskov’s claims, which were in line with Moscow’s rosy propaganda on the war, the Russian military has struggled to make any significant gains in Ukraine since Putin ordered the invasion in late February. Russia is estimated to have lost up to 15,000 troops. After failing to take Kyiv, Russia has turned its attention to the eastern Donbas region.