Leaked documents reveal US intelligence on Ukraine war: What we know and don’t know
The alleged leak of classified US documents about Ukraine’s military situation has raised questions about the authenticity, origin and implications of the information. The documents, which appear to show US intelligence assessments of Ukraine’s war effort and strength, were posted online in recent days and have drawn attention from the media and officials. Here is a summary of what we know and don’t know about the leak and its potential impact.
What do the documents show?
The documents, which include maps, charts and lists of equipment, outline various aspects of Ukraine’s military situation amid the ongoing conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the eastern Donbas region. Some of the documents carry a March 1 date and are marked as “SECRET//NOFORN”, meaning they are not to be shared with foreign nationals.
The documents detail Ukraine’s military strength, including the number and location of its troops, tanks, artillery, aircraft and naval vessels. They also provide information on the state of the conflict, such as the number of casualties, ceasefire violations, humanitarian needs and displaced persons. Additionally, they show the burn rate for HIMARS long-range rocket systems, which are supplied by the US to Ukraine and are considered a key deterrent against a possible Russian invasion.
The documents also include some estimates of Russia’s military capabilities and intentions, such as the number and location of its troops near the border with Ukraine, its readiness levels, its air defense systems and its possible scenarios for an attack. The documents suggest that Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and could launch a multi-pronged attack within days or weeks.
Are the documents real?
The authenticity of the documents has not been confirmed or denied by the US government. A Pentagon spokesperson said that the Department of Defense was aware of the reports of social media posts and was reviewing the matter. A State Department spokesperson said that they could not comment on allegedly leaked information.
However, some US officials have expressed their belief that at least some of the documents are real. John Sullivan, former US ambassador to Russia and deputy secretary of state, told NBC News that there were some indications that there were some aspects of the document that had some authenticity to them. He also said that there were indications that this may be a Russian disinformation campaign, which they are very good at.
Some experts have also pointed out that some of the information in the documents is consistent with publicly available sources or previous reports. For example, some of the numbers and locations of Ukrainian troops match those reported by Ukrainian media or officials. Some of the maps also correspond to those published by independent analysts or organizations.
However, there are also some discrepancies and anomalies in the documents that raise doubts about their veracity. For example, some of the numbers for Russian troop casualties are far below those estimated by independent military analysts and the Pentagon. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley, said in November that as of then roughly 100,000 Russian troops had been killed or wounded in the war, and that Ukraine likely had suffered a similar level of casualties.
Moreover, some versions of the documents have appeared online with different figures for Russian troop casualties, suggesting that they have been altered or manipulated. According to a researcher at Bellingcat, an online investigative group, the documents first appeared on 4chan in March. Different versions have appeared online since then on Twitter and Telegram.
Another anomaly is that some of the documents look to have been folded and then smoothed out. This raises questions about how they were obtained and leaked. Some experts have speculated that they may have been photographed or scanned from a physical copy or printed from a digital file.
Who is behind the leak?
The origin and motive of the leak remain unclear. There are several possible scenarios for who is behind it and why they did it.
One possibility is that it was an act of whistleblowing by someone within the US government or military who wanted to expose US intelligence on Ukraine or raise awareness about the threat of a Russian invasion. This could be someone who disagreed with US policy on Ukraine or wanted to pressure US officials to take more action to support Ukraine.
Another possibility is that it was an act of espionage by someone outside the US government or military who wanted to obtain US intelligence on Ukraine or undermine US credibility or influence. This could be someone who worked for or was affiliated with Russia or another adversary or competitor of the US