Pentagon leaks – key takeaways

3 min read

The so-called “Pentagon Leaks” have rattled Washington and left the U.S. in a hurried scramble to do damage control. The Pentagon had to confirm that the 300+ pages of documents “appear to contain sensitive and highly classified material”, but the DoD insists on “at least some having been doctored”.

While the exact reasons that prompted Jack Teixeria (21, member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard and arrested in his home in North Dighton) to publish all those highly sensitive documents on Discord to his young (often underage) group mates, are still unclear, especially why he used his own account and his personal data, providing the FBI and U.S. counterintelligence with easy to follow leads, there are several takeaways from the issue.

Leaks are here to stay

In the internet era, it started with Chelsea Manning and the WikiLeaks as the first really high-profile and sensitive leak; and continued with Edward Snowden and Joshua Schulte. Not to mention the “Offshore Leaks” and “Panama Papers” just to name a few, that disclosed things (though not intelligence information) that many wished to keep secret.

Leaks are as old as espionage and secret documents are, it is enough to think about the “Pentagon Papers” from 1971. The question is how they alter policies and public opinion (like the leaking of the draft decision of the Supreme Court in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization in 2022, just in time to influence midterm elections).

The US has a hard time convincing its (former) Middle Eastern allies to join the fight against Russia

As the U.S. focuses more and more of its attention to Asia (starting with the “re-pivoting” announced by President Obama), its long term Middle Eastern allies fear a power vacuum and increasingly turn to third parties for security guarantees or allies. As they watch as the EU sanctions itself, many wonder “what it costs to be aligned with the United States, and whether there are ways to supplement the relationship with the United States”, as Jon Alterman put it.

For a while, it’s been Russia, now China seems to take the lead. Overshadowing U.S. successes, like a recently negotiated maritime deal with Lebanon and Israel.

Either way, the leaks prove what has been said by experts for a while, that even those states that received or receive billions of dollars from Washington aren’t willing to give in to American demands. In fact, there were some, like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who ordered about 40,000 rockets and other weapons to be shipped to Russia. Others, like the UAE have been negotiating with Russian firms over weapons system maintenance centers.

Not everything is as it seems in Ukraine…

Starting with the fact that Washington was not happy with the U.N. and Turkey brokered grain deal (claiming that U.N. chief and ending with the confirmation of the presence of European special forces on the ground. Given the occasional report of Britons dying in Ukraine, it shouldn’t have been that big a surprise, but, according to the leaks, 50 Britons, 17 Latvians, 15 French and one Dutch soldier is accompanying 14 Americans in aiding Ukrainian war efforts.

The suggestion that France and Spain are delivering a missile system to Ukraine or that Europe, more specifically Poland is delivering most of the tanks, isn’t really shocking, either.S

It is slightly more surprising that, at least according to a document dated March 2, Serbia agreed to supply arms to Kyiv and may have sent them already, especially as Belgrade has repeatedly refused to provide training to Ukrainian forces.

The documents also seem to prove, that the allies are working hard to avoid the escalation of the conflict, going so far as downplaying incidents involving their surveillance plane over the Black Sea and other close encounter between Russian fighter jets and U.S., U.K. and French surveillance aircraft.

… but the U.S. is sceptic, anyways

One document, dated February this year, expressed serious doubts about Ukraine’s chances of success, predicting only modest territorial gains.

Besides that, Ukrainian casualty figures might be higher than publicly stated by Kyiv, while its army might be in worse shape than admitted, the documents also predicting the likely failure of air defenses, as it revealed that Kyiv might run out of missiles.

According to one alleged Pentagon document (dated February 28) claims that Ukraine might completely deplete its stock of S-300 missiles by May 3. If the estimates are/were true, then Kyiv has already run out of Buk missiles (by April 13), leaving most of the country’s critical infrastructure without aerial defense.

Homo homini lupus est

Or, in politics and warfare, friendship has its limits.

At least when one is a global superpower like the U.S.

To protect and promote its own interests, Washington didn’t shy away from spying on friends and foes alike, let it be Russia’s Wagner Group, Ukrainian President Zelensky, his South Korean counterpart, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many others.

And while only the naivest could possibly believe it being otherwise, it is a “nightmare for the Five Eyes” as one unnamed senior intelligence officer from one of the four nations sharing intelligence information with the U.S. (U.K., Canada, New Zealand and Australia) has put it to the NYT.

The best reaction: say nothing or deny, deny and deny.

As of now, those involved in the issue (apart from the Americans) resorted to two different methods to weather the crisis: either kept silent, refusing to react or had categorically denied (like Egypt or Serbia) the allegations.

Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine declared that he believed the documents to be “inauthentic” and have “nothing to do with Ukraine’s real plans”. Interestingly enough, Ukrainian officials admitted days later that certain plans for the spring offensive had been modified after the leaks.

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