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News Analysis May 7, 2022 1:14 PM EST

White House claims reports of US intelligence helping Ukraine sink Russian warship are 'inaccurate'

The administration did not publicly confirm that US intelligence led Ukraine to target the Moskva, despite those US officials cited in the reporting, and have now actively denied it.

White House claims reports of US intelligence helping Ukraine sink Russian warship are 'inaccurate'
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY

A report from The New York Times this week says the "United States provided intelligence that helped Ukrainian forces local and strike the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet last month." This indicates a shift in the Biden administration's willingness to go further than initially indicated to help Ukraine fight their Russian aggressors, the report notes.

The Times further reported that the US is providing Ukraine with "real-time battlefield intelligence," including "sharing anticipated Russian troop movements." This help "is part of a continuing classified effort," the Times reports.

The reporters found a discrepancy between the comments of administration officials, two of whom said Ukraine already had the coordinates of the Russian battleship Moskva, and the US "provided only confirmation," while others said US intelligence "was crucial to Ukraine's sinking of the ship."

When asked about the reporting during a press briefing on Friday, outgoing White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said "to speak to the reports, they're inaccurate."

National Security Fellow Sumantra Maitra of The Center for the National Interest told The Post Millennial "the White House is trying to back track because they know what a stupid mistake this bragging was."

He said it's "unlikely US intelligence isn’t helping Ukraine with targeting. What’s the purpose of telling Ukrainians where the Moskva is if not for them to target it?"

"We did not provide Ukraine with specific targeting information for the Moskva," Psaki said. "We were not involved in the Ukrainian decision to strike the ship, or the operation they carried out. We had no prior knowledge of Ukraine's intent to target the ship."

"The Ukrainians have their own intelligence capabilities," Psaki continued, "to target and track Russian naval vessels, as they did in this case. And I've discussed this with both our national security advisor and the President, and the view is that 1) this is an inaccurate over-claiming of our role, and and under-claiming of the role of the Ukrainians, who frankly have a greater level of intelligence, access to intelligence, than we do.

They take—we do provide a range of intelligence to help them understand the threat posed by Russian ships in the Black Sea, and to help them prepare to defend themselves against potential sea-based assaults, but they take our intelligence, and they combine that with what they have access to. And so on this specific report," Psaki said, "it's just not an accurate depiction of how this happened."

The Times reports that the administration was "scrupulously silent" in the days after the attack, refusing even to confirm that the Moskva had been targeted and struck. They reported that "...in recent days, American officials confirmed that targeting data from American intelligence sources was provided to Ukraine in the hours before the Neptune missiles were launched."

Russia has said the Moskva sank due to an onboard fire that led to a munitions explosion.

The administration did not publicly confirm that US intelligence led Ukraine to target the Moskva, despite those US officials cited in the reporting, and have now actively denied it.

When asked why the US would involved itself in war operations instead of supplying Ukraine with weapons and funding, Maitra said "President Biden is under enormous pressure from his activist administration who wants to continue and expand the scope of this conflict with Russia to make it impossible for Russia to succeed in Ukraine."

One of the problems with this, Maitra said, is that "actively helping in targeting and sinking assets, and then bragging about it ends the plausible deniability of being a co-belligerent in a conflict that is not debated in Congress, and one which the majority of Americans don't want to be involved in."

"It's a war that is fueled by an elite activist group within the President's advisory circle," he continued, "and these new leaks are almost designed to provoke Russia into counter-escalating. It's a dangerous game, that should worry every sensible American."

The White House continues to ask for funding for Ukraine's war effort, and Biden spoke at length about how great this war is for the US economy and jobs in munitions. "Being the arsenal of democracy also means good paying jobs for American workers," Biden told constituents while touting the war effort in Ukraine.

"A big part of the reason they've been able to keep up fighting," he said, "and to make this a strategic failure for Russia is because the United States and other allies and partners have had their back."

And perhaps another reason is an influx of US intelligence. Congress has approved funding for Ukraine and weapons, but has not declared any kind of war on Russia — despite the administration apparently assisting Ukraine in its war with Russia.

The administration has been pumping Ukraine full of weapons and funding to help the nation defend itself against Russia, which launched an invasion in February. Ukraine is not a NATO nation, and the US is not bound to defend it.

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