Many news watchers have been struck by the sudden change in tone coming from U.S. officials in relation to the war in Ukraine in recent weeks.
The New York Times published an article claiming that intelligence shared by the U.S. had helped Ukraine kill Russian generals in some cases.
Another report came out this week with U.S. officials admitting to assisting Ukraine with intelligence that facilitated the sinking of the Russian cruiser Moskva.
While American politicians have been totally transparent about arming Ukraine, we are now in a new phase where they are apparently openly admitting to what could be considered acts of war against Russia.
As far as casus belli go, wars have been fought over much less than bragging about helping to kill the enemy.
The question is, why?
Ukraine “makes the decisions” about how to use U.S. intelligence: Pentagon spokesman
John Kirby’s statement comes after NYT and NBC reports that U.S. intelligence has helped Ukraine kill Russian generals and sink the cruiser Moskva
— Jack Detsch (@JackDetsch) May 6, 2022
The Sinking of Moskva
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On April 14th, after being struck by two Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles, the Moskva – a flagship of the Russian Navy – sank.
If the Moskva sounds familiar, it should. It’s the same ship that the famous 13 Snake Island heroes famously told to “f**k off.” Initial propaganda claimed that all were killed defending the island.
Later, reports came out that they were captured and later released in a prisoner exchange.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in regards to claims that the U.S. directly assisted with the attack:
“The Ukrainians have their intelligence capabilities to track and target Russian naval vessels, as they did in this case.”
So I suppose the argument could be made that we merely confirmed the ship’s identity. Then, as our government claims we didn’t know in advance, they would target the ship.
New: US gave intel to Ukraine that helped them target the Moskva. Ukrainian forces, having spotted the Russian warship in the Black Sea, asked the US for confirmation it was the Moskva. The US responded that it was, and provided intel about its location. https://t.co/Um62fht80B
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) May 5, 2022
While I am no lover of the Pentagon, I find it hard to believe that we didn’t know precisely what Ukraine would do with our intelligence.
When Will It Cross the Line?
Current policy dictates that the United States will not share lethal targeting intelligence about any Russian civilian or military leaders. To date, Ukraine claims to have killed 12 Russian generals since the war started.
There are a few reasons this could be, to be fair.
The Russian military isn’t well known for its resources, so there could be a leap that generals have to be present on the front lines to facilitate swift communication. This could be why there has been such success with taking out generals.
Or, it could be that we are sharing intelligence that is facilitating these strikes, which seems very Cold War Era-esque and smells a bit of proxy assassination. Both make for good suspense novels but are not suitable for real life.
The third option is that there has been no outsized success in killing Russian generals, and it is just a story– like the “Ghost of Kyiv” or the Snake Island 13.
Fine. Shut up about it. https://t.co/Yls3A2gEcR
— John Sipher (@john_sipher) May 5, 2022
During his trip to Germany, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the U.S. wants to:
“…see Russia weakened to the degree it cannot do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”
That’s a reasonably tall order, no matter how you feel about what is happening in Ukraine. Moreover, this rhetoric aligns with what we heard from the Democratic Congressional Delegation that visited Kyiv, vowing to stay in it until they win it.
Our Congressional Delegation was honored to meet with @ZelenskyyUa in Kyiv to salute his leadership and courage, to commend the Ukrainian people for their outstanding defense of Democracy and to say that we are with you until victory is won. pic.twitter.com/zkc588Qcrv
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) May 1, 2022
Secretary Austin also said there would be a monthly ‘contact group’ created to discuss plans with western allies on the following steps:
“The contact group will be a vehicle for nations of goodwill to intensify our efforts, coordinate our assistance, and focus on winning today’s fight and the struggles to come.”
How much more intense can our military support be? It sure feels like we are fighting a proxy war with Russia.
So the following steps would be to dedicate American men and women to the ground in Ukraine, which I believe most Americans don’t want.
Careful What You Say
To be critical of our support of Ukraine is not easy, especially when we live in a political environment that demands extreme reactions. When Russia invaded, Iraq War veteran and former Democrat presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard tweeted:
“This war and suffering could have easily been avoided if Biden admin/NATO had simply acknowledged Russia’s legitimate security concerns regarding Ukraine’s becoming a member of NATO, which would mean US/NATO forces right on Russia’s border.”
This war and suffering could have easily been avoided if Biden Admin/NATO had simply acknowledged Russia’s legitimate security concerns regarding Ukraine’s becoming a member of NATO, which would mean US/NATO forces right on Russia’s border
— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) February 24, 2022
Gabbard was promptly labeled treasonous by Senator Mitt Romney.
However, even the Pope agrees partly with Gabbard, who said in an interview that “barking of NATO at Russia’s door” more than likely instigated the war.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference, Gabbard said of her Democratic colleagues:
“They proclaim that we must go to war to spread democracy and freedom while they actively work to undermine our democratic republic and our freedoms right here at home.”
We’re already in a hot war with Russia, and it’s going to get a lot hotter because the Biden Admin’s stated goal is the complete destruction of Russia’s economy & military. Russia has made it clear that if faced with this prospect they’ll have no choice but to use tactical…(1/3) pic.twitter.com/n35Nacxp8N
— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) May 6, 2022
Careful, Tulsi, you might not be let back into the Democratic Club with talk like that; they might change up the secret handshake on you.
However, she does bring up an interesting point given the recent talk of a Disinformation Governance Board that smells oddly a lot like the Ministry of Truth from “1984.”
Secretary Austin said one more thing that I found very interesting:
“We all start today from a position of moral clarity. Russia is waging a war of choice to indulge the ambitions of one man.”
What would we have called the botched withdrawal of Afghanistan? Because for many of us who served, that felt like an act meant to indulge one man’s political ambitions.
And to that same end, what do we call this escalation of rhetoric towards Russia? What started as a very carefully worded campaign of support for Ukraine has evolved into words such as ‘win,’ ‘victory,’ and ‘whatever it takes.’
What are we trying to indulge and what price will we pay?