Pentagon leaks on war in Ukraine confirmed but source still unknown

Pentagon leaks on war in Ukraine confirmed but source still unknown
The Israeli Spike anti-tank guided missile which Ukraine would need according to leaked Pentagon document, credit: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

The recent leak of classified Pentagon intelligence documents showing US assessments of the war in Ukraine was first met by doubts about the authenticity of the documents and their source.

By now the US has confirmed that a leak has taken place although the source is not yet known. According to The New York Times, the trove of leaked documents is likely to be about 100 pages that have been photographed and published on the internet. Senior US official said the documents appeared to be intelligence and operational Pentagon briefs and that an inquiry started last Friday.

The leak became widely known during the Easter break and last weekend when some of the documents were uploaded on pro-Russian Telegram channels and an internet forum where also the original image on Ukrainian losses had been altered.

Tracing the documents, Aric Toler, a researcher at Bellingcat, an investigative network of journalists, found that the documents been posted much earlier in Discord, a social media chat platform popular with game players around the world.

Although some documents are showing US espionage on its close allies and have been edited to Russia’s favour, he told The Brussels Times that there is “zero reason” to think that Russia is behind the leak. Why someone who had access to the documents should first publish them on a platform for gamers is still unclear. “He was sharing them with his friends just to flex basically,” Toler thinks.

A spokesperson of the European Commission declined to comment on the leak at the first press conference in Brussels after the Easter break. “We don’t comment on leaks or alleged leaks of material that claims to be classified and are not related to the EU,” said Peter Stano, lead EU spokesperson for foreign affairs.

As previously reported, the documents disclose among others estimates of Ukrainian and Russian losses, the risk of Ukraine running out of ammunition and anti-air missiles, and the prospects of US allies such as Israel and South Korea to provide weapons to Ukraine.

The most worrying assessment was that Ukraine's air defense is at serious risk of running out of ammunition within the next few weeks unless NATO and its allies immediately step-up arms shipments.

New York Times reported that one document dated 28 February estimated that Ukraine's Soviet-era S-300 and Buk air defense systems will be fully depleted by 2 May and mid-April respectively. Both systems collectively account for almost the entirety of the Ukrainian Armed Forces' defense against Russian missile and air attacks.

“If that happens, officials say, Moscow could decide it is finally safe for its prized fighter jets and bombers to enter the fray and directly threaten the outcome of the war on the ground.”

Israeli weapons to Ukraine?

According to another leaked document, referred to by Israeli newspaper Haaretz (titled “Israel: Ways to supply lethal aid to Ukraine”), Israel might be willing in a possible scenario in the future to supply its Spyder surface-to-air missile system and even the Spike anti-tank guided missiles to Ukraine.

The Spike missiles have different ranges and can be launched from differrnt platforms from land, air, and sea. Some 40 countries around the world use the Spike missiles, including 19 EU countries and NATO allies. A defense export agreement valued at €370 million was recently signed between Israel and Greece to acquire the Spike missiles.

Furthermore, Finland, NATO’s most recent member, informed Israel last week about its decision to acquire the David's Sling Weapon System, an advanced air‐defense system. The system is designed to intercept advanced aerial threats, including ballistic missiles, aircrafts, UAVs and cruise missiles.

The agreement is valued at € 316 million and contingent on final export approval from the US government due to the system’s joint development with the US. If approved, Finland will be the first country to procure David’s Sling.

“The system will significantly strengthen the capability of Finland's air defense,” remarked the Finnish air force commander. “Together with the commissioning of the F‐35 and the already fielded ground‐based air defense systems in service, the air defense of Finland will be very substantial on the European scale."

Until now, Israel has been unwilling to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine because of the need to coordinate with Russia when operating against Iranian bases and weapon transports in Syria but this might change in view of the development of military cooperation between Russia and Iran. Currently, Israel and Ukraine are reportedly developing an early warning system against missile attacks.

M. Apelblat

The Brussels Times

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