In a previous post, on April 27th, entitled “Putin Threatens the U.S. for Arming Ukraine,” I said the following:
“Both Putin and Lavrov have been talking about, even vaguely threatening with, the possible use of nuclear arms in the Ukraine war or against those nations supporting Ukraine. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said yesterday such “loose talk” about using nuclear weapons is “irresponsible.” He met with leaders of 40 countries in Germany this week to discuss Putin’s War in Ukraine.”
I think that was okay what Defense Secretary Austin said. But here is what I said next, with which I concluded this April 27th post:
“Also this week, both Austin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said they, or the U.S., would like to see Russia ‘weakened’ due to its aggression against Ukraine. Did they really need to say that? Okay to say it privately, but not as a public statement. That’s the main reason Putin justifies his attack on Ukraine, saying the West denigrates Russia which used to be such a great power. Putin envisions Russia returning to the supposed glory days of the Soviet Union when it and the U.S. were the only two superpowers. It seems to me that saying that about the U.S. weakening Russia only adds fuel to the fire for Putin’s deranged narrative that causes him to bully and bluster and attack others.”
Since then, other military officials, though some anonymously, have been quoted in the media as saying that U.S. intelligence was largely responsible for the locating that Russian ship name Moskva (=Moscow) in the Black Sea so the Ukraine military could shoot a missile at it to sink it, which they did. And there have been other such claims made, such as U.S. intelligence via satellites identifying the locations of various Russian generals in Ukraine and Ukraine forces then killing them.
But today, Newsweek has an article claiming that news of this U.S. role in Russia’s war in Ukraine could unnecessarily provoke Putin to take more drastic measures. It quotes former CIA official Paul Pillar saying, “My personal view is it’s unwise. I am surprised at the extent of official confirmation of the role of US intelligence in the sinking into [sic] Moscow, and even more so the killing of the generals. The big concern is that this sort of public confirmation of this extensive U.S. role in the setbacks dealt to the Russians may provoke Putin into escalation in a way that he might not otherwise feel it necessary to escalate.” Indeed.
I like the Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. This Newsweek article then quotes him saying on Wednesday to The New York Times, “We [U.S. intelligence] do provide them [Ukraine military] useful intelligence, timely intelligence, that allows them to make decisions to better defend themselves against this invasion. And I think the less said about that, honestly, the better.”
I’m on a list to receive emails from the Council of Foreign Relations so that I sometimes listen to their podcasts and once attended one of their luncheons. This article then quotes Richard Haass, president of CFR as saying that he “can’t fathom why US officials are discussing US helping Ukraine sink Russian ships or kill its generals. All this bolsters Putin’s narrative that Russia is a victim & distracts attention from the reality of Russian aggression & its incompetence vs Ukraine.”
The article then quotes Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, whom I’ve met, “The whole shift in tone from the [Biden] Administration in wake of the Blinken/Austin visit is worrisome–weakening Russia; winning; and now stories about killing Russian generals. Why can’t we just shut up?”
The article then quotes former national security advisor Robert O’Brien as saying, “We should help our allies and the Ukrainians, but there is no reason to spike the football or take a victory dance. There is no reason. And we should stay a little quieter.” He says of our intelligence that it can “expose our sources and methods. I saw this malign conduct while in office. These leakers are not clever officials. They have betrayed their nation’s trust.”