This week President Joe Biden is in Europe for the G-7 Summit, where discussions about Russian sanctions and Ukrainian aid will undoubtedly be front and center. The West has been attempting to balance assistance to Ukraine, staving off a World War 3 scenario with Russia, and a worldwide economic crisis with looming food insecurity in the background.
While it is well known that the United States has provided billions of dollars of economic, humanitarian, and military aid, the Pentagon has been vague on the intelligence the U.S. has provided.
However, ‘current and former’ officials claim that CIA personnel have continued to work in secret within Ukraine’s borders, primarily in the capital of Kiev. The U.S. government has a standing policy of not confirming CIA personnel activity anywhere in the world.
However, there never seems to be a drought of ‘current and former’ officials willing to talk.
The New York Times reports that CIA operatives and personnel continue to secretly work in Ukraine, mainly around Kyiv, according to former and current US officials.
They’ve mostly been tasked with the smooth transfer of both intelligence and weaponry from NATO to Ukraine.
— Damage Control (@WarInUkraineYet) June 25, 2022
Spooks On The Ground
Reports indicate that the United States isn’t the only one with intelligence operatives within Ukraine’s borders. British, French, Canadian, and Lithuanian commandos allegedly work to direct intelligence sharing throughout the country.
What is known is intelligence sharing and collaboration has been happening outside the borders of Ukraine and seem to have grown exponentially. For example, the United States Army’s 10th Special Forces Group built a coalition planning cell when the Russian invasion first started.
This cell was set up with the idea of organizing, directing, and disseminating lethal intelligence. Instead, this relatively small cell has now blossomed into a collaborative brain hub of over 20 nations.
Why would Russia’s failure make the Pentagon more confident? It is Russia’s failure, not the Pentagon’s success. On the contrary, it emphasizes the Pentagon’s, the State Department’s and the intelligence communities failure to assess Russia’s true capacities accurately.
— Juan Manuel Perez Porrua Perez (@jperezporrua) March 27, 2022
A community that used to be known for being unknown now freely boasts its work and accomplishments. For example, Lt. General Jonathan Braga, commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, told senators in April:
“What is an untold story is the international partnership with the special operations forces of a multitude of different countries. They have absolutely banded together in a much outsized impact.”
Undoubtedly, this statement is welcome to the Pentagon, which, along with the intelligence community, has faced criticism surrounding its ability or apparent inability to judge other nations’ willingness to fight.
Reassurances Of Support From G-7
The G-7 announced reassurance to Ukraine that they “…will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
This announcement is meant to assuage Ukrainian fears that the West has grown weary of a war meant to only last a few days.
The fear that Ukraine has is best described by a political analyst with the Penta Center, Volodymyr Fesenko, who said:
“It is obvious that Russia is determined to wear down the West and it’s now building its strategy on the assumption that Western countries will get tired and gradually begin to change their militant rhetoric to a more accommodating one.”
While the message from the G-7 seems to be unwavering support, a question remains if the support provided is what Ukraine needs. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked the G-7 for more military assistance, specifically for anti-aircraft defense systems.
A conversation at the G7 summit today
Boris Johnson: “Jackets on? Jackets off? Can we take our clothes off? We all have to show that we’re tougher than Putin.”
Justin Trudeau: “We’re going to get the bare-chested horseback riding display.”pic.twitter.com/QrNXYfnKi7
— Fifty Shades of Whey (@davenewworld_2) June 26, 2022
The war seems to be taking the form of ground and air battles that the Ukrainians suffer dearly from at 200 soldiers a day. That begs the question of whether intelligence is enough.
We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
The reality is we aren’t entirely sure what the actual ground truth is regarding the war in Ukraine. Moreover, those same ‘current and former’ officials have said that American intelligence agencies have less information than they would like regarding Ukraine’s operations.
A former official who actually has a name, Beth Sanner, said:
“How much do we really know about how Ukraine is doing? Can you find a person who will tell you with confidence how many troops has Ukraine lost, how many pieces of equipment has Ukraine lost?”
It’s not just our intelligence that seems to be a bit lost. Our foreign policy initiatives themselves seem to be shooting in the dark as well.
The same people (incl. Joe Biden) who repeated bad intel that Russia put bounties on U.S. troops now claim there was no intel suggesting the Taliban would quickly topple the Afghan government. There was, they just didn’t pay attention because they couldn’t use it to attack Trump.
— Spencer Brown (@itsSpencerBrown) August 19, 2021
The Ruble Makes A Roaring Comeback
Economic sanctions were sold to the American people and largely to the world as a way to put a financial squeeze on the Russians. Sure it would cause short-term discomfort, but it would discourage Russia and help end the war.
As we head into the summer months with gas prices vaulting upwards past $5 per gallon, this has many Americans wondering when these sanctions will start working. Deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance Elina Ribakova scathingly rebuked those who recommended sanctions:
“…that cutting Russia from financing for a few weeks at the beginning of the war would stop the war have proven naive.”
Since the war, Russia has been bringing in $20 billion a month from energy exports.
And while the Biden administration claimed the Ruble would become rubble, it appears to have risen from the ashes. The Russian Ruble is now the best-performing currently in the world.
Biden in March said sanctions were “crushing the Russian economy” & that “the ruble is reduced to rubble”
But high energy prices mean Russia is making more money than ever, the ruble is at a seven-year high against the dollar, and China’s benefiting from discounted Russian oil.
— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) June 27, 2022
What Price Are We Willing To Pay?
I, like most Americans and Europeans, support aid to Ukraine, however, not at the expense of our security, both economically and militarily. Perhaps what causes some wavering of support is unclear end goals.
Nigel Gould-Davies, senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, highlights this issue well:
“…there are hints of different tensions over what the West’s goals should be. Those have yet been clearly defined.”
With victory in this conflict a vague vision, it may be difficult to convince Americans to sacrifice more, particularly as we head into the mid-term elections. The last aid package was set to get Ukraine through the fiscal year.
That leaves the next possible package up for a vote as early as October this year, right before the midterms. Besides the fiscal and political implications, there is also the threat of Russian escalation.
After hearing from President Zelensky, the G7 leaders issue a joint statement saying, in part, that they “express serious concern after the announcement by Russia that it could transfer missiles with nuclear capabilities to Belarus.” “We urge Russia to behave responsibly.”
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) June 27, 2022
This past Sunday, a Russian news broadcast boasted that they only use 18% of their Army. Additionally, a former deputy commander of Russian forces hinted at possible nuclear engagement over the Lithuanian blockade of Kaliningrad, stating:
“The first to be hit will be London.”
While the alleged CIA personnel working in Kiev might not be enough to ruffle the feathers of Putin, the biggest unknown is; how far can we go until Putin makes good on his threats?
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