‘Target Rules & Kill Bans’: US Intel-Sharing With Kiev 'Calibrated' to Avert Wider War - Report
10:09 GMT 12.05.2022 (Updated: 11:24 GMT 12.05.2022)
Russia, which is conducting a special military operation to demilitarise Ukraine, has repeatedly warned that increasing arms deliveries to Kiev by the US, such as those streamlined by the lend-lease deals recently signed by the Biden administration, can only result in greater risk of Washington’s direct involvement in the conflict.
While the administration of President Joe Biden has repeatedly stated that the US is not at war with Russia, and is providing assistance intended for Ukraine’s defence, in effect Washington can boast very limited control over how precisely the military equipment and intelligence is used by Kiev.
Intelligence-sharing with Kiev regarding the Russian military, which is carrying out a special operation to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine, is something that Washington has been a great deal more reticent about, The Washington Post reported.
In fact, US-provided information about the location and movements of Russian forces has been steadily reaching Ukraine in real-time, according to cited American and Ukrainian officials.
Obtained from satellite imagery and via other “sensitive” US sources, it has been described as “very good” by the Ukrainian side.
“It tells us where the Russians are so that we can hit them”, one Ukrainian official was cited as saying.
While the administration of President Joe Biden has repeatedly stated that the US is not at war with Russia, and is providing assistance intended for Ukraine’s defense, in effect Washington can boast very limited control over how precisely the military equipment and intelligence is used by Kiev.
That invariably heightens the risk of a direct conflict
between the US and Russia, the outlet claims.
In an effort to purportedly “calibrate” the intelligence-sharing to avoid escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow, the US is said to have drawn up specific “guidelines".
Thus, intelligence personnel, at the working level, is required to observe two broad prohibitions on the kinds of information that the United States can share with Ukraine, officials are cited as revealing.
Firstly, the US cannot provide detailed information that would help Ukraine target and kill Russian leadership figures. This purportedly applies to senior military officers or ministers, such as Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, and Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister. The ban allegedly does not extend to Russian military officers, including generals.
The Biden administration, according to the report, is “self-limiting to strategic leadership on paper”. However, it has opted to stop short of “actively helping” Ukrainian forces “kill generals of any kind”.
Secondly, intelligence-sharing that would help Ukraine attack Russian targets outside Ukraine’s borders is also prohibited, officials claimed.
Fears such information might make the US a party to attacks launched by Ukraine inside Russia reportedly prompted the administration to halt earlier plans to provide fighter jets supplied by Poland to Kiev.
Not that US officials have discouraged Ukraine from undertaking such operations, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken telling a congressional panel last month that Ukraine should “do whatever is necessary to defend against Russian aggression” and “the tactics of this are their decisions”.
There is another rule in place, besides the prohibited categories of intelligence-sharing, the report revealed.
Washington ostensibly has a rule against providing what officials call “targeting information” to Ukraine.
While the US will not tell Ukrainian forces that a specific Russian general has been spotted at a determined location or help Ukraine to “strike him”, it is prepared to divulge intel about the location of command and control facilities, insiders claimed. An odd distinction, bearing in mind that in effect these are the places where Russian senior officers would likely be found.
Nevertheless, according to cited legal experts, the definition of “targeting” as legal and policy guidance can help the United States position itself as not being a party to the conflict.
“If the US were providing targeting information to a foreign party, and we’re closely involved in targeting decisions, we’re directing those forces and they’re acting as a proxy for us. That might be seen as getting close to the line of actually attacking Russia, at which point Russia could arguably respond reciprocally”, Scott R. Anderson, an ex-State Department official, was quoted as saying. He added that this is why “targeting intelligence” was “different from other kinds of intelligence-sharing”.
As an illustration of purportedly “calibrated” intelligence-sharing, the outlet recalls the incident involving the sinking of the Moskva
, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
According to Moscow, the Moskva sank on its way to the port of Sevastopol after a fire led to an explosion of the ship's ammunition.
However, unnamed officials speaking to The Washington Post claimed that after Ukraine spotted the vessel off its shores in April, it was US intel that helped to confirm its identity.
“We did not provide Ukraine with specific targeting information for the Moskva. We were not involved in the Ukrainians’ decision to strike the ship or in the operation they carried out. The Ukrainians have their own intelligence capabilities to track and target Russian naval vessels, as they did in this case,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby had stated at the time.
The day after The Washington Post and other news outlets reported on the alleged US role in the Moskva strike, President Joe Biden made a flurry of separate calls to CIA Director William J. Burns, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, according to a senior administration official. He was said to have fumed over the leaks
and warned that they undermined the US goal of helping Ukraine.
Russia began its special military operation in Ukraine on 24 February following a plea for assistance from the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk to defend them from intensifying attacks by Ukrainian troops. Moscow said that the aim of its special operation is to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine and that only military infrastructure is being targeted. However, the US and its allies, besides launching a sweeping sanctions campaign against Russia, have committed well over $4 billion in military aid for Ukraine in recent months.
Russia has repeatedly warned the US and its allies about the dangers of funnelling weapons to Ukraine, stressing that the cargoes are considered a legitimate military target for Russian missiles. Furthermore, such assistance serves to prolong the conflict, and could even risk a direct confrontation with NATO