The New York Times, here via Yahoo, has some rather weird piece over alleged lack of intelligence on Ukrainian warplanes:
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has provided near-daily updates of Russia’s invasion on social media; viral video posts have shown the effectiveness of Western weapons in the hands of Ukrainian forces; and the Pentagon has regularly held briefings on developments in the war.But despite the flow of all this news to the public, U.S. intelligence agencies have less information than they would like about Ukraine’s operations and possess a far better picture of Russia’s military, its planned operations and its successes and failures, according to current and former officials.
Governments often withhold information from the public for operational security. But these information gaps within the U.S. government could make it more difficult for the Biden administration to decide how to target military aid as it sends billions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine.
Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, testified at a Senate hearing last month that “it was very hard to tell” how much additional aid Ukraine could absorb.
She added: “We have, in fact, more insight, probably, on the Russian side than we do on the Ukrainian side.”
One key question is what measures Zelenskyy intends to call for in Donbas. Ukraine faces a strategic choice there: withdraw its forces or risk having them encircled by Russia.
Andrei Martyanov rants about the piece:
Well, NYT decided to start steering clear of this whole Russia “lost in Ukraine” BS it promoted together with neocon crazies, and begins this ever familiar tune of the “intel failure”. Right.U.S. Lacks a Clear Picture of Ukraine’s War Strategy, Officials Say
Hm, how about I put it bluntly–the U.S. never had clear picture on anything, especially on Russia, or, as a private case, [the Special Military Operation] and completely bought into Ukie propaganda, which shows a complete incompetence of the “intel” in the US.
The narrative on [the Special Military Operation], in reality, is dead and the failure is not being set, it already happened. It is a fait accompli no matter how one wants to put a lipstick on the pig.
Larry Johnson thinks there is another another motive behind the story:
Frankly, I find it hard to believe that there are not solid analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency who know the answers to all these questions. The real problem may not be a lack of intelligence. Nope. It is the fear of telling the politicians hard truths they do not want to hear.Given the billions of dollars the United States is spending on “intelligence” collection systems, it is time for the Congress and the American public to demand that the intelligence services do their damn job.
I do not believe for one moment that U.S. intelligence services do not know what is going on in Ukraine and in Kiev. They know that the Ukraine has lost the war and will have to sue for peace as soon as possible.
They also have told the White House that this is a case and that the whole idea of setting up the Ukraine to tickle the Russian bear was idiotic from the get go. The question now is who will take the blame for the outcome. Who can the buck be passed to?
There is always the option for politicians, as Andrei assumes is the case, to blame the intelligence and the various agencies which provide it. This was done when the war on Iraq, based on false claims weapons of mass destruction, started to go bad for the U.S.
But what the NYT piece does is passing the buck from the intelligence community to president Zelensky of Ukraine: “He did not inform us about the bad position his country was in.”
It is cover your ass time and Zelensky prominence in the ‘west’ makes it possible to blame him personally for the outcome of the war.
On May 31 the Council of Foreign Relations, with its head Richard Haass, had a public discussion about the state of the war in Ukraine. One of the participants was the former Deputy Commander of the United States European Command Stephen M. Twitty. He knows and makes absolutely clear where the war stands:
TWITTY: I think the war in the Donbas is starting to turn to the Russians’ favor, and when you take a look at—and I’m particularly talking about the eastern part of the Donbas—the Russians have transitioned from trying to pour all their combat power into the Donbas to obliterating every single town. Whether it be Rubizhne, Lyman, they’re working now on Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk as well, they’re obliterating these particular towns, and that’s how they’re making their headway. They’re not putting a bunch of combat power with infantry forces and tanks in there. They’ve taken all their artillery and they’re treating it like Mariupol and that’s how they’re making their headway. So they’re starting to make some headway in the eastern Donbas and so we have to watch that one closely.HAASS: … Why don’t we reverse [our policies]? General Twitty, is there something that the president said? Are things we’re not doing that we should be doing? Is there things that you would recommend at this point?
TWITTY: Well, as I take a look at this, you know, Secretary Austin came out that we’re going to weaken Russia. We have not really defined what weaken means, because if you take a look at the Ukrainians right now, I take a strong belief in Colin Powell’s doctrine—you overwhelm a particular enemy with force. And right now, when you take a look at Ukraine and you take a look at Russia, they’re about one to one. The only difference is Russia has a heck of a lot of combat power than the Ukrainians.
And so there’s no way that the Ukrainians will ever destroy or defeat the Russians, and so we got to really figure out what does weaken mean in the end state here. And I will also tell you, Richard, there’s no way that the Ukrainians will ever have enough combat power to kick the Russians out of Ukraine as well, and so what does that look like in the end game.
There follows some discussion with other participants about potential outcomes the U.S. would like to see, like Ukraine in the state that it was in before 2014.
Twitty then explains why those ideas are all unrealistic and that what is needed instead are immediate negotiations:
TWITTY: Yeah. So I got a couple of things for you, Richard. So I want to go back to what you said. Pre-2014—I want you to think about that one, because I’ve had time to think about it hearing others here, and what I will tell you, Richard, you know, I learned from the National War College there’s something called ends, ways, and means.So if that’s your end state—pre-2014—then I’m interested to hear the ways and the means because, from a military standpoint, if that’s the way then the means would be the Ukrainians lack, again, the ability to pull that off to pre-2014. They just lack that ability. They don’t have the combat power.
And I also want to remind you we hear a lot about Russian casualties and Russian losses. We hear very little about Ukrainian losses, and keep in mind they’re losing soldiers throughout this war as well. They started at approximately two hundred thousand. Who knows where they are today?
And so it’s hard to recruit and maintain that level of professionalism in that military. So that’s my first point. The end, ways, and means, they lack that, to be able to go back to the pre-2014.
The second point that I would make is, you know, as you look at the DIME—diplomatic, informational, military, and economic—we’re woefully lacking on the diplomatic piece of this. If you notice, there’s no diplomacy going on at all to trying to get to some type of negotiations. And I don’t think that we can lead that, given where Putin thinks about us.
But if you sit back and think about those that could possibly be a part of this negotiation team, you know, you have the—two of them are in—that I’m going to list are in NATO. One is President Orbán out of Hungary. Perhaps he can help out in the negotiation effort. The other one is President Erdoğan of Turkey. Longtime friends of President Putin, although some view that relationship as transactional. I don’t know. Let’s put it to the test and see.
Someone objects and makes a case for ‘giving the Ukraine more time’ by pushing more weapons to them. Twitty dismantles that argument:
TWITTY: —Charlie, I agree 100 percent. But I will tell you, when you look at time, the Ukrainians have to go into negotiations with the upper hand at a position of strength, and so right now they are at a position of strength. The more this war goes on we never know if that’s going to wane, and then they will lack the ability to go to the bargaining table at a position of strength and may lose more than they intended, and so let’s keep that in mind as well.
There it is. The professional military and intelligence people know exactly what is up. The Ukraine is already in a very bad situation and from here on it can only get worse. They expect that the Ukrainian frontline will break down. I am sure they are urging, like Twitty does above, for immediate negotiations using whatever third party is available.
It is the White House for which such an outcome is not what it had hoped to achieve. It can in fact not allow it. It is currently blocking any negotiations because admitting to a loss in Ukraine would give the Republicans more ammunition to damage Biden.
Yves Smith detects some signs that, behind the curtains, some direct negotiations between Ukraine and Russia are actually taking place:
We may know in due course, but this development, even if these talks are more at the feeler stage, is proof that Zelensky is losing power. Recall that there has already been some chatter about a possible military coup. And it is hardly uncommon for the senior officials of a leader on the ropes to start negotiating with the other side, both out of the best interests of their country and to improve their odds of survival.
So that is a long winded way of saying that Zelensky may not have altered his stance, but that instead he is no longer driving the train. And it may also be that some in the Ukraine government are also trying to get the UK’s and US’s hands off the wheel. It may be too early for that to happen, but if they keep trying to shore up Zelensky when his own senior staff (and the military) are turning against him, they could find they bet on the wrong horse. Again, I’m not saying this is a likely outcome, but the fact that it is even conceivable is a big change in the state of play.
Passing the buck to Zelensky, to then have him removed from this planet, may indeed be the best outcome for the White House … and for Ukraine.