The Times reported overnight, based on U.S. intelligence, that one of the senior Russian generals in Ukraine, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, at least had advanced knowledge of the Wagner Mutiny and may have had some role in planning it. Surovikin is a one-time commander of Russian forces in Ukraine and remains a senior commander in the theater. You can read the details in the piece but I want to focus your attention on something different. This is another example of the Biden administration using selective disclosure of U.S. intelligence as an offensive tool in its cold conflict with Russia.
Needless to say, if true and if Russian officials believe it, this is a highly unsettling disclosure, one aimed at sowing uncertainty and distrust among Russian political and military elites, as well as destabilizing Russia’s war-fighting machine in Ukraine. But it’s not the first time the Biden administration has done this. Such disclosures are not unprecedented of course. But they are a recurring feature of Biden administration foreign policy, especially with regards to Russia.
Remember that in the weeks before the Russian invasion in February 2022 the Biden administration repeatedly revealed intelligence on Russia’s plans. Many international observers believed that the Russian build up was a feint, an effort to force concessions from Ukraine or destabilize its government. The U.S. made clear that it was in fact a planned invasion and revealed various details of Russian war plans. It didn’t stop the invasion. But it did shape global reactions to the invasion and helped short circuit Russian efforts to create confusion and uncertainty about how the war started.
For the moment, I don’t have a larger point other than to focus your attention on this recurring theme and use of this tool.
In other news, here’s an interesting commentary by Jack Watling at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) website: Wagner’s March on Moscow Left Unresolved Challenges in its Wake.
There’s also a short item in an Axios newsletter this morning I wanted to flag. The full piece is in their subscription/pro version, which I don’t subscribe to. But for our purposes that’s not necessary. The key is that when the Ukraine war started the U.S. thought it could supply a lot of missiles to Ukraine and ramp up production to backfill U.S. supplies. But that hasn’t really worked. The U.S. has had a hard time replenishing its own stockpiles. The Axios piece is about how a new company — founded by the rather feral guy behind Oculus — is partly filling the gap. This story has become fodder for anti-Ukraine aide people to say we’re endangering our own security by sending so much to Ukraine. I’m not terribly worried about that. There’s a strong argument that currently U.S. national security interests are best served by supplying Ukraine. But it does point to ways that the U.S.’s vast military-industrial capacity might struggle in an actual hot conflict in which the U.S. was directly involved. Here’s a Journal article from April about the supply/production constraint issues.