It’s been an open secret that the United States has been the top country aiding Ukraine financially and militarily since the original Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Now the US again leads with military assistance With over $17 billion in donated funds, military equipment, and economic assistance to Ukraine, while NATO and EU countries have been far more stinting in their aid, doing just enough not to be accused of doing nothing. It is also not a surprise that the US has been sharing intelligence on Russian troop movements and dispositions since last year. The US may have been over-sharing a bit too. As US intelligence watched a slow build-up of Russian troops on its border with Ukraine, it went past sharing and started making predictions. For months the administration breathlessly announced that an invasion would occur at any moment and then undermined its own assertion by not behaving as if that invasion would in fact occur by whipping the EU into rushing weapons to Ukraine,(or doing so ourselves) and imposing the sanctions on Russia it believed would prevent the invasion. It eventually caused a minor rift between the US and Ukraine which asked the administration to back off the “imminent threat” language because it was causing panic in Ukraine with civilians fleeing and money moving out of the country as early as November 2021. Presumably, Zelensky was looking at the same intel the US was looking at and coming to different conclusions about when the invasion would occur.
Then the administration announced that it had Russia’s war plans in its possession and confidently asserted that it would begin on a certain date that came and went without an invasion and still the US did not move to sanction Russia or flood Ukraine with weapons to defend itself with.
In hindsight, it begins to appear as if the White House believed that the threat of un-named sanctions and urgent and repeated “We see what you’re doing” pronouncements would be enough to deter an invasion by Putin. On February 24th of this year, that miscalculation was decisively proven as tanks rolled into Ukraine.
In April 2022, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed for the first time that the US had been providing intelligence to the Ukrainian government and its armed forces to help them repel the Russians at all costs.
He was asked by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton from Arkansas during a hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee whether the US was supplying intelligence to Ukraine, specifically in the Donbas region or Crimea.
Austin then confirmed that the US was indeed providing vital intelligence to Ukraine “to conduct operations in the Donbas” but did not mention Crimea. According to him, the US provides useful information and intelligence to the Ukrainian Armed Forces in their fight.
“As that fight migrates more to the Donbas region, we will adjust our information content and flow as required,” Austin continued.
An unnamed senior defense official who spoke with CNN also stated that the Ukrainians were receiving US intelligence in real-time. Another US defense official spoke with NBC and claimed that the US was specifically giving intelligence regarding Russian missile strikes and vital information about where and when they would strike. This gave the Ukrainians a very big window of time to move their military equipment to another location so that they would not get destroyed. Furthermore, this also gave the Ukrainians more time to move their air defenses to defend against the missile strikes and prevent the air defense equipment themselves from getting destroyed.
“There has been a lot of real-time intelligence shared in terms of things that could be used for specific targeting of Russian forces,” said an unnamed retired senior intelligence official. They also said that it was not only real-time intelligence they were sharing with the Armed Forces of Ukraine but also which Russian units were active and what type of munitions they might use on the battlefield.
This US intelligence has proven vital to the Ukrainian defense against Russian bombing and advances. Evidence shows the Russian military has been bombing empty fields where Ukrainian air defenses were once deployed. If the Ukrainians lost more of their air defenses, it would leave them tremendously vulnerable to more Russian airstrikes, which have devastated multiple Ukrainian cities. The most destroyed was Mariupol, which had been virtually bombed till all structures crumbled down.
Even the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, told the House Armed Services Committee that the intelligence sharing between the US and the Ukrainians has been “revolutionary” and explained that he could go into more detail during a closed session.
Army General Paul Nakasone, the head of the Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, has claimed that he has never seen a better sharing of intelligence that was timely and actionable in his 35 years of service. This may be over polishing the apple a bit since the US has enjoyed even closer cooperation with “5-Eyes” which is the joint signal intelligence sharing treaty between the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand since the 1940s.
US Spies Have Been Helping Ukraine With Intelligence and More
It was also reported by multiple journalists that US spy agencies have been involved in sharing vital intelligence about the Russian forces, specifically the exact coordinates of Russian troops and aircraft. This allows the Ukrainian Armed Forces to anticipate an attack or destroy these units before they could even launch the attack.
“We have done intensive intelligence sharing, and we continue to with the Ukrainians, including when I saw President Zelensky in January in Kyiv,” CIA Director William Burns said.
“We shared with him intelligence we had at the time about some of the most graphic and concerning details of Russian planning about Kyiv as well, and we have continued to do that every day since then.”
This intel sharing was responsible for the shootdown of a Russian transport aircraft carrying Russian troops, which had helped Ukrainians repel initial advances toward Kyiv.
The CIA has also been helping Ukraine in many ways than the public would expect. The CIA revealed that they had devoted “significant resources” to protect Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from being assassinated. In previous reports by SOFREP, we shared how the Chechen Special Forces were deployed in Ukraine to assassinate President Zelensky and members of his family and government in an attempt to take over the Ukrainian government. When the Chechen forces failed, the Wagner Group was sent in to finish the job. However, with President Zelensky still alive, it is safe to say that both groups have failed to accomplish their mission.
The US had a lot to do with this as the CIA actively worked with Ukrainian officials on how to best move and transfer President Zelensky around Ukraine (likely in Kyiv). They made sure that Zelensky was not located with the rest of his cabinet to ensure the continuity of government, even if one of the government officials was assassinated or bombed.
While the US and the CIA have not specifically mentioned other instances where they specifically helped Zelensky and the Ukrainian Armed Forces, they ensured that the Ukrainians were still providing regular and detailed intelligence to Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has been silent on the topic, and for a good reason, keeping their mouths shut would keep the Russians in the dark.
It has not always been this way. Intelligence officials were initially restraining intelligence sharing with Ukraine as the US did not want to provoke Russia as intelligence sharing could be seen as a direct threat and, more so, direct participation in the conflict. The Biden administration has been adamant that the US will not be directly participating in the war, which is why Biden did not order to “close the sky” and push for a no-fly zone in Ukraine.
How did the US get this intelligence? Of course, we will never know the true extent of the US’ capability to spy on Russia; however, common ways to know when and where Russian troops, vehicles, and aircraft are located is through the use of satellites, satellite imagery, and drone technology (which has been vital to Ukrainians). It can also be assumed that we have Russian assets inside the country that provided information. Putin’s Russia is not the locked-down security state that the Soviet Union was and Putin has many enemies within his own country.
General Mark Milley has told the House Armed Services Committee last April 5 that they will not reveal how the US gathers intelligence in an open meeting (for obvious reasons). However, he stated that “this war has arguably been the most successful intelligence operation in military history. And it’s really tremendous, and someday, that story will be told.”
Critics would be quick to ask, “Well, if the operation was so successful General, Ukraine wouldn’t have been invaded, right?”