by Alexander Reupinstein
Classified Pentagon documents containing information about US and NATO plans for a Ukrainian offensive and key details of the ongoing war have leaked. And the Biden administration is reportedly demanding they be scrubbed from the internet. Is there a hidden agenda behind the leak?
The New York Times has reported “a significant breach of American intelligence in the effort to aid Ukraine” through the leak of classified documents that have been shared on social media. It correspondents cited “senior Biden administration officials” who apparently tipped the outlet off to the story. Documents circulating on Telegram that closely resemble those referred to by the Times are reproduced at the end of this article.
The Times writes, “Military analysts said the documents appear to have been modified in certain parts from their original format, overstating American estimates of Ukrainian war dead and understating estimates of Russian troops killed. The modifications could point to an effort of disinformation by Moscow, the analysts said… The analysts warned that documents released by Russian sources could be selectively altered to present the Kremlin’s disinformation.”
Neither the New York Times nor the “military analysts” it cited to explain how the documents were altered, or why they have the appearance of tampering. However, because the leaked documents have arrived in the form of photographs of printed documents, rather than original files, the possibility of forgery or alteration must be considered.
The leaked documents claim that Russia has sustained troop losses ranging from 16,000 to 17,500 while Ukrainian losses amount to as many as 71,500 – a staggering differential that stands at odds with the triumphalist narrative projected by Kiev. They are dated March 1 2023 and appear to be part of an ongoing briefing effort to analyze the war’s progress and plan a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
The Grayzone obtained the documents from a public Telegram channel. Though they resemble those described by the Times, we can not confirm their authenticity.
According to the New York Times, the Pentagon is investigating the leak while the White House is “working to get them deleted.” Twitter owner Elon Musk appears to have confirmed the pressure campaign, sarcastically commenting, “Yeah, you can totally delete things from the Internet – that works perfectly and doesn’t draw attention to whatever you were trying to hide at all.”
Leaked docs: Ukrainian killed in action outnumber Russians 4:1
Perhaps the most notable piece of information contained in the leaked documents relates to military death tolls, with Ukrainian and Russian losses estimated at about a 4:1 ratio. According to one document, 71,500 Ukrainian troops have been killed in action.
That figure is close to the 100,000 KIA’s cited by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a November 2022 speech, before her comments were retracted. It also tracks closely with statements by one of Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky’s top advisers, Mykhailo Podolyak, who told the BBC in June of last year that Ukraine was losing between 100 and 200 soldiers per day (200 deaths per day over the course of 370 days between the launch of Russia’s military operation and the date of the documents would total 74,000.)
Other American and EU state officials have offered dramatically different figures placing Russian KIA’s over the six figure mark. For instance, Norway’s defense chief has charted 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers dead to Russia’s 180,000, while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Miley asserted that Russian losses are “significantly well over 100,000.”
Another key detail in the documents pertains to the size of the front lines in Donetsk: Russia maintains 91 battalions in the “Donetsk axis” with around 23,000 total personnel, while Ukraine maintains eight brigades and 40 battalions, with 10,000 to 20,000 total personnel.
The documents also outline expectations of weapons deliveries to Ukraine from the US and other NATO countries along with training schedules for Ukrainian forces as a Spring counteroffensive approaches. The timeline spans from January through April, detailing twelve Ukrainian brigades under construction and the weapons they have been or will be supplied. Nine brigades are said to be armed and trained by the US and NATO allies, and six are said to be ready by the end of March, while the rest will be in action by the end of April. The brigades are said to require 253 tanks, 381 mechanized vehicles, 480 motor vehicles, and more.
While the documents distributed on Telegram contain important details about NATO and Ukrainian military capacity, and highlight the astounding depth of American involvement in the war, their publication raises a number of questions.
If the documents were partially faked, were they disseminated to help Russia advance its public relations goals, perhaps by minimizing their casualty numbers or inflating those of their foe? They certainly would not be fooling anyone at the Department of Defense, since they obviously have the original files on hand. Or could it be that the United States leaked the documents with faulty intelligence strewn throughout their contents to confuse Russia ahead of a Ukrainian offensive?
There is also the possibility that they are one hundred percent authentic. If so, Ukraine and its Western patrons may have more serious problems than a few leaked documents.