The United States still does not have a clear picture of Ukrainian military operations. This lack of information could make the task of providing the necessary military aid more complicated, at a time when deliveries of weapons and more sophisticated military systems to Kiev intensify.
In espionage, an information network can take decades to assemble, but it is an indispensable tool for gaining a clear view of the intentions of potential adversaries. This became clear in the days leading up to the Russian invasion, with the United States of America publicly revealing various pieces of information that accounted for Putin’s plans to invade Ukraine.
Now, more than three months after the start of the war and several billion dollars in military aid, US spy agencies admit that they still have less information about Ukrainian operations than they do about the Russian army.
Cited by The New York Times, several sources linked to US secret services admit that the United States continues to lack a clear picture of Ukrainian military operations. This lack of information could make the task of providing the necessary military aid to Ukraine more complicated, at a time when deliveries of weapons and more sophisticated military systems intensify.
Information, experts argue, can be as important as the number of soldiers or weapons an army has. It is equally important to be in possession of all the information necessary to be able to reinforce military units with the material they need. Particularly when billions of dollars of foreign aid are at stake, and for the United States, these “blind spots” of information are becoming increasingly uncomfortable.
“How much do we really know about Ukraine’s operations? Can we find a person who can confidently tell us how many soldiers Ukraine has lost, or how many weapons have been lost?” asked a former US intelligence officer, quoted by the newspaper.
It is common, during times of war, for governments to withhold certain information in order to guarantee “operational security”, that is, the security of military operations that are taking place on the ground. Official US sources have revealed that the Ukrainian government has already provided classified briefings about some of its plans, but the Ukrainian side admits it has not told them all the information.
That fact has not stopped the US administration from resurrecting the “Lend Lease Act” and sending a military aid package that includes some Western military systems that are being used by Ukraine for the first time. However, the weapons sent result from a balance between what the Americans believe that Ukraine needs and what the Zelensky government asks for and not the real needs of the Ukrainian army.
The United States regularly shares real-time information with the Ukrainian army, using its most advanced technological capabilities, from real-time satellite imagery to information obtained by long-range reconnaissance drones. These capabilities allowed Ukraine to have information that allows it to coordinate artillery attacks against Russian positions or to know which regions to reinforce, depending on Russian movements.
“We actually have a clearer view of the Russian side than the Ukrainian side,” admitted the director of the national intelligence agency, Avril D. Haines, at a Senate hearing in May.
Information from Ukraine has, in fact, been scarce. The Ukrainian government has never admitted or come forward with an actual number of casualties for its army, despite asserting that more than 31,000 Russian soldiers lost their lives in the invasion of Ukraine – about 300 a day. Still, Zelensky is not so explicit when he talks about his strengths on the ground. The closest to an official toll that existed from Kiev was the daily death toll in the Donbass region, which the president says is close to 100 a day.
Official sources cited by The New York Times justify this opacity with the desire to project an image of strength, both for domestic consumption and for countries that support the Ukrainian war effort. Publishing the number of soldiers killed could give the impression that Ukraine might not win the war, eventually leading Western partners to question sending arms to Ukraine.
“It’s all about Russia’s goals and Russia’s prospects for achieving its goals. We don’t talk about whether Ukraine can defeat them. And to me, I feel like we’re setting ourselves up for another misinformation by not talking about publicly,” Beth Sanner, a former intelligence officer, told the American newspaper.