The role of US Intelligence in the Ukraine War

The United States had been scrutinizing Ukraine and Russia since long before the war. But by reducing the time frame to the last few months, already at the beginning of the escalation, when the weapons in Europe were still silent, Washington wanted to make the rest of the world understand that it had full control over what was happening and was about to happen at the gates of Europe. The US administration was the only one to alert the world to Vladimir Putin’s intentions. Joe Biden, in relaunching the reports of the secret services, repeatedly warned of the danger of an invasion, even mentioning possible dates.

The warnings issued by the Democratic administration were seriously underestimated, or even mocked. No one thought it possible that Russia had already decided to go ahead and wage war on Ukraine while diplomats were trying in every way to find an agreement after the Kremlin’s threats. The military exercises being conducted on the borders of Ukraine, in Russian as well as Belarusian territory, were considered manoeuvres to put pressure on Kyiv and the West. Most of the Federation’s major partners had gone to Moscow with the idea of avoiding the debacle.

The US and British warnings then had a tragic concreteness. The special military operation launched by Putin after recognising the separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk sparked a conflict whose consequences we can still see today. And if this is not the place for an analysis of the conflict, it is useful to dwell on the role that Anglo-American intelligence has had since the beginning of the invasion. An importance that has increased not only factually on the ground but in the media. The twofold trace of a war that is inevitably hybrid, between the concreteness of the weapons and the deeper, but no less incisive, info-war techniques.

The latest revelations in the US media have marked a definitive shift in perception of the importance of US intelligence in the conflict.  The Washington Post and New York Times, and with them other US newspapers and broadcasters, have had the opportunity to confirm a constant and public commitment of the Washington agencies. A publicity that was never so evident even in the most recent wars in which US forces were involved (directly or indirectly). And that therefore confirms an increasingly high positioning of the secret services in the hierarchies of American war strategy. Security agencies are no longer an obscure apparatus of the US system, but fundamental elements of defence and foreign policy. Living, visible, media elements, with a continuous flow of information leaked through “anonymous sources” to the country’s main media to convey messages for use at home and abroad. So markedly present as to have alarmed the White House itself, which had to summon the heads of the major security agencies and ask them to prevent dangerous leaks that could undermine its Ukraine strategy.

The revelations, however, help us understand how far the commitment of American intelligence is being pushed  in the intricate thicket of the war in Ukraine. According to leaked information, for example, the US services helped Kyiv’s forces to identify Russian generals and senior commanders who were later killed or seriously wounded on the battlefield. It was precisely this news that triggered Washington’s anger. But as a demonstration of the truth of the media’s claims, the democratic government apparatuses had to admit substantially that they supported their Ukrainian colleagues while denying that they had materially helped kill high-ranking members of the Russian forces. A denial that smacks of an admission of responsibility and so confirms the pervasiveness of the American system already proved publicly, when reports showed they precisely understood Putin’s intentions compared to their European and Western partners.

All this is made possible by a complex system of infiltration, parallel diplomacy and exploitation of technological and military resources that have made US involvement increasingly marked and decisive. Since even before the war began, drones and spy planes in the US Air Force and Navy were monitoring the Black Sea inch by inch and before that the borders of the Donbass regions. Some believe that the closeness of US intelligence to some very important events, in particular the sinking of the Moskva, is to be linked precisely to a continuous flow of information from US intelligence to those who are doing the fighting on the ground.  Satellites, including commercial ones, explore the ground with their cameras to monitor the operations of Russian troops to the point where they can detect almost in real time the movements and actions of enemy forces. Commercial satellites are an important issue, to which must be added the number of experts and technicians, more or less close to American intelligence, who have taken over the social media to continuously administer very detailed information about what is happening in Ukraine. Osint (Open Intelligence) sources that have certainly created a sort of total media coverage, so conveying the image that the West possesses a pervasive ability to understand Russian moves even through the actions of ordinary individuals. In addition, the training of the different components of the Ukrainian army, air force and navy undoubtedly had the ability to build a network of relationships and information, not only between Kyiv’s troops, but also on the battlefield itself. Such networks are crucial in a war where the human factor remains central, despite the idea that technology has completely supplanted people.