CDR (ret.) Eyal Pinko, Ph.D.
Classified US and NATO Documents for Bolstering the Ukrainian Military Were Exposed on Social Media
This week, the New York Times reported that classified war documents detailing covert US and NATO plans for bolstering the Ukrainian military before a planned offensive against Russia had been posted on social media platforms. Senior Biden administration officials were quoted in the New York Times article. But no evidence was offered, as well as the leak source.
The leak of the data, which emerged on Twitter and Telegram, a platform with more than half a billion users widely used in Russia, is being investigated by the Pentagon.
Military analysts claimed that the records appeared to have understated the number of Russian forces killed and overestimated the number of American soldiers killed in the conflict in Ukraine.
According to the analysts, the adjustments might result from a disinformation campaign by Russia. But the information revealed in the original documents—which are shown as images of charts showing expected weapon delivery, troop and battalion levels, and other plans—represents a massive breach in American intelligence in the campaign to assist Ukraine.
As of last Thursday night, Biden officials' effort to remove them had yet to be successful.
The documents do not include specific battle plans, such as how, when, and where Ukraine intends to commence its offensive, which U.S. officials predict will occur within the next month. And because the documents are five weeks old, they provide a snapshot of time — the American and Ukrainian perspectives on what Ukrainian forces may require for the campaign as of 1 March.
The documents, however, provide numerous tantalizing clues and insights to a Russian military strategist, field general, or intelligence analyst with a trained eye. The papers discuss, for example, the expenditure rate of HIMARS — high mobility artillery rocket systems supplied by the United States capable of launching attacks against targets such as ammo depots, infrastructure, and troop concentrations. In addition, the documents disclose the rate at which Ukrainian personnel is employing HIMARS munitions, which the Pentagon has not publicly stated.
Analysts stated on Friday that assessing the impact of the documents' release on the current and future frontline combat could be challenging. For example, Russia's recent offensive in eastern Ukraine has struggled to make gains. Western analysts debate whether the Russian military, which has suffered staggering casualties, can launch another offensive or repel a Ukrainian assault.
It needed to be clarified how the documents reached social media platforms. However, pro-Russian government channels have shared and disseminated the briefing transparencies, according to military analysts.
The analysts warned that documents released by Russian sources could be selectively altered to present the Kremlin’s disinformation.
For example, one of the slides said 16,000 to 17,500 Russian soldiers had been killed while Ukraine had suffered as many as 71,500 troop deaths. However, the Pentagon and other analysts have estimated that Russia has suffered far more casualties, with closer to 200,000 killed and injured, while Ukraine has had more than 100,000 killed and injured.
Nonetheless, analysts said parts of the documents appeared authentic and would provide Russia with valuable information such as the timetables for delivering weapons and troops, Ukrainian troop buildup numbers, and other military details.