GUEST BLOG: Ben Morgan – United States intelligence slips up but will it stop Ukraine smashing Russia?


Regardless of the Russian Army and Wagner Group cooperating, Bakhmut still holds and remains the focus of military activity on the ground in Ukraine. At this stage though this battle is a distraction from the bigger campaign question – When and where will Ukraine’s offensive blow fall?  Almost all military commentators now accept that Russia is exhausted; and that even if Bakhmut is captured, Russia will need to pause there before pushing west towards the cities of Kramatorsk or Severodonetsk. 

 At this stage, the war could be related to Muhammed Ali’s famous fight against George Foreman in Zaire; billed as the ‘Rumble in the Jungle.’ Foreman was younger, bigger and stronger than Ali. So Ali fought a tactical battle, letting Foreman expend his energy and tire himself out, Ali protecting his head but letting Foreman hit his body. Round after round, Ali avoided being knocked out continuously taunting Foreman including asking in the seventh round That all you got, George?” when a powerful punch caught him.  Then when Foreman was exhausted Ali came from behind and knocked him out.

And; we are seeing a similar situation develop in this campaign, Ukraine holding the line but encouraging Putin to keep throwing punches at Bakhmut.  Every human wave attack that is launched reducing Russia’s combat power for very limited returns.  At this stage, the defence is holding but even if it fails, Russia is no better placed looking at a tough advance to attack Kramatorsk or Severodonetsk two large cities well sited for defence.  Fifty kilometres south of Bakhmut, at Avdiivdka and further south at Vuledhar large Russia attacks have been defeated. And; there are even reports that Ukraine has successfully regained ground near Avdiivdka.  

This week news of Russian defector Gleb Karakulov broke providing insights into why Russia is failing so badly.  Karakulov, was a captain in the FSB and worked in electronic intelligence and security in Putin’s protection team. Karakulov’s defection provides a ‘peek behind the curtain’ within the Kremlin. The situation he describes is familiar to anyone that has read about dictators; who inevitably over-time descend into paranoia and isolation.  Karakulov reporting that Putin “has lost touch with the world” preferring to distance himself from most people to avoid disease or assassination.  Further, that he is worried about electronic surveillance so avoids the internet and phones relying instead on personal briefings from key aides. “He has been living in an information cocoon for the past couple of years, spending most of his time in his residences, which the media very fittingly call bunkers. He is pathologically afraid for his life. He surrounds himself with an impenetrable barrier of quarantines and an information vacuum. He only values his own life and the lives of his family and friends” said Karakulov. This description is like descriptions of Hitler, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein or a hundred other despots in the last stages of their regimes.  

Karakulov’s information confirms suspicions about Putin; providing a reason for why the Russians continue to throw resources into the Battle for Bakhmut, almost seeming to be going out of their way to conform to Ukraine’s strategy.  Throughout the war, we have had reports about Putin’s influence over tactical decision-making including that he micro-manages the campaign. Karakulov’s insights confirm that his information sources are limited; likely only people in his inner circle including Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Chief of Defence Force Valery Gerasimov, Director of the FSB Alexander Bortnikov, Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev and Sergei Ivanov who led Russia’s 2016 interference in the United States presidential elections.  A group of people with long-standing personal connections to Putin, who rely on Putin for their power and prestige.  And; are likely to be unwilling to bring Putin bad news.  Unfortunately for Russia, military commanders need good information or they make bad decisions and Putin’s vicious kleptocracy disincentivises honest reporting. 

This situation provides an explanation for Russia’s bad decision-making and explains why forces continue to be thrown into the meat grinder at Bakhmut.  If Russia stopped offensive action, husbanded its ammunition and consolidated reserves in depth it may be able to stop the coming Ukrainian offensive.  Instead, they keep throwing away men and material on capturing Bakhmut. Putin’s underlings hoping against hope that with enough bodies they may just snatch a victory; and not have to bring their leader bad news. 

Meanwhile across the border Ukraine is preparing, commentators estimate that Ukraine has 60-100,000 soldiers in depth ready to move.  Troops trained across NATO are returning to the country and slowly new NATO weapons are trickling into the country.  However, there may be a problem for Ukraine. 

This week it was reported that leaked United States intelligence documents circulated on social media.  First, a screen shot of Ukrainian forces dispositions. Later, five photographs of classified documents. The documents are roughly a month old; and were published on 4Chan in March then used on Telegram recently.  First reports played down the importance of the leak; but recent information about the documents and their source indicates that this leak may be more significant than expected. The FBI starting an investigation and a senior United States official quoted describing the leak as “a massive intelligence breach.”

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The breach is important because it may indicate that Ukraine’s forces are weaker than expected and provide useful insight into United States intelligence operations including their penetration of Russian networks and American activities spying on allies.  So far, we know that they include:

  • Assessments of Russia’s military, including casualty estimates. 
  • Assessments of Ukraine’s military position, force location including discussing concerns about the Battle of Bakhmut and details of NATO weapons available in country. 
  • Details of United States spying on Ukrainian officials and on Israel. 

The leak appears to contain legitimate information because there are two versions available online an ‘original’ version; and a ‘doctored’ version that reduces the number of Russian casualties and is being circulated on Russian social media. It is unlikely that if it was a fake leak there would be two version’s circulating.  This leak is significant and may impact the campaign. Silverado Policy Accelerator’s Russia analyst Dmitri Alperovitch summed the situation up in the following statement: “If real, the leaking of these documents can do significant damage to the Ukrainian counteroffensive since this information effectively provides Russia with Ukrainian order of battle — extensive information on capabilities of brigades that would be involved in upcoming counteroffensive.” 

This leak is also interesting because some of the leaked information was shared within the ‘Five Eyes’ network; and the other members of ‘Five Eyes’ (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom) are all awaiting the result of the damage assessment.  And; a significant impact of this leak may be a loss of trust and confidence in United States intelligence procedures amongst its allies.  

The impact of these leaks on the campaign is uncertain, my estimate is that being a month old the information is relatively out of date tactically and will not influence the campaign significantly.  The biggest risk is the loss of trust and confidence within the allied intelligence community.  It will be especially troubling if a ‘Five Eyes’ partner has slipped up. In general, my assessment is that Ukraine is still on track to transition to offensive operations. 

Retired Australian general Mick Ryan, recently visited Ukraine and reported that preparations for an offensive are advanced, that Ukraine is establishing 2-3 new corps.  A corps is a formation of 2-3 divisions or roughly 30-50,000 soldiers.  A corps provides a formation of sufficient size and strength to mass force at a point on the frontline and punch through defences.  General Ryan’s information tallies with commentator’s assessments of Ukraine’s military strength. Chair of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Miley confirmed that the United States is working with Ukraine supporting their planning telling media that senior officers were wargaming options and stating that “The Ukrainians are moving things around on these maps to determine what is their best course of action.” Further, last month Kyrylo Budanov, the Major General in charge of Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence organisation stated that the decisive battle will happen this spring.  Last time, he made a statement like this it proved correct.  

This information probably indicates that Ukraine is on course for its offensive; and further there has been an increase in HIMARS and missile attacks in Crimea and South Zaporizhzhia.  Possibly confirming a prediction made in this column some weeks ago that this is the area that will be attacked; and that the attack will be preceded by strikes against Russian targets in depth.  However, remember that when the offensive starts it is likely that attacks will take place on more than one axis.  A feint in one direction followed by the real attack elsewhere.  

Internationally, this week the war was influenced by two events; French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s visit to China and Finland joining NATO. 

Macron and von der Leyen’s travelled to China and met separately with Xi Jin Ping.  Ukraine was on the list of topics for discussion. Macron, went to China ready to appease – asking for Xi Jin Ping’s help to negotiate with Putin. He was welcomed with open arms and friendliness.  Von der Leyen, on the other hand arrived in China ready to hold Xi to account for supporting Russia; and her reception was less friendly.  

This is a sad state of affairs because China’s refusal to provide military support for Russia results from the prospect of European and United States economic sanctions. So, it is vital that European diplomacy sends a consistent message and does not provide exploitable chinks that can be used to divide the alliance. Macron has consistently been a weak link in the European collective and demonstrates a level of naivety in his relationships with Putin and Xi.  Confirmed by this meeting in which regardless of Macron’s good will and reasonableness Xi has not changed his stance on the war, committed to meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyer Zelenskyy or to helping broker a peace process.  

Macron, could take some lessons from Finnish President Sauli Niinistö who gave a magnificent speech at the NATO acceptance ceremony.  A speech that highlighted Finland’s independence and unwillingness to be cowed by Russia; and that included saying that if Putin wants to know why Finland joined NATO – “he should look in the mirror.” Niinistö is cut from a different cloth and knows that historically appeasement does not work. Finland’s acceptance into NATO is a massive blow for Russia strategically, not only does Finland bring a large and highly trained military into the alliance it also doubles the NATO/Russia border.  Further, Finland’s geographic position helps NATO secure the Baltic republics.  

In summary, we are approaching a turning point in the war. Ukraine’s forces are building up for its planned offensive, and although it is possible that progress will be affected by information in the leaked American documents it still seems likely that as the ground dries the offensive will start.  An offensive will create a key decision-point because either:

  • Ukraine will achieve significant success re-capturing key areas, specifically the Crimean Land Corridor forcing Russia to parley or be defeated; or
  • Russia will defeat the offensive, soaking up Ukraine’s forces and losing minimal terrain forcing Ukraine to negotiate. 

Unfortunately, it seems that the situation is binary and that if Ukraine is not successful then long-term it risks losing United States and NATO political support; or being dragged into a long slogging match that it can’t win.  However,  Ukraine has demonstrated the capability to defeat the Russians and with the extra support they have received we can be optimistic that the offensive will be successful and that Russia will be knocked out in the eighth round!


Ben Morgan is a bored Gen Xer and TDBs military blogger


  1. “This week it was reported that leaked United States intelligence documents circulated on social media. First, a screen shot of Ukrainian forces dispositions…..
    …..a senior United States official quoted describing the leak as “a massive intelligence breach.” Ben Morgan

    What’s that old joke about ‘Secret Intelligence” that it’s neither secret nor intelligent.

    The purpose of Secret Intelligence is not to monitor our enemies. But to monitor us.

    As a defensive pact 5 Eyes is not fit for purpose.

    5 Eyes incompetence has compromised Ukraine’s defence.

    That 5 Eyes is incapable of preventing leaks of this magnitude, is a threat to our defence.

    5 Eyes is not just incompetent, 5 Eyes is a threat to our independence and our sovereignty, dragging us into to the nuclear military Aukus pact.

    5 Eyes spying and surveillance as revealed by Edward Snowden is mostly directed not at the enemies of the West but at the citizens of the West, including us.

    From wikipedia;

    The Five Eyes (FVEY) is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[1] These countries are parties to the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.[2][3][4] Informally, Five Eyes can also refer to the group of intelligence agencies of these countries…..

    …..Documents leaked by Snowden in 2013 revealed that the FVEY has been spying on one another’s citizens and sharing the collected information with each other, although the FVEY nations maintain that this was done legally. It has been claimed that FVEY nations have been sharing intelligence in order to circumvent domestic laws, but only one court case in Canada has found any FVEY nation breaking domestic laws when sharing intelligence with a FVEYs partner.[11][12][13][14]

    5 Eyes principally serves the hegemonic interests of American imperialism and rivalry and not the interests of the people of the Pacific.

    5 Eyes is a threat to our independence and our sovereignty, dragging us into to the strategic offensive nuclear Aukus pact.

      • I see your imperialist friends are looking forward to slaughtering Ukrainian civilians unhindered after May.

        From RT:
        Ukraine will run out of most of its anti-air missiles by May, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing classified Pentagon documents leaked on social media. Facing the prospect of Russian air superiority, Kiev has been asking for more air defense systems from the West for months.

        From the Guardian link you supplied:
        One of the documents, dated 23 February of this year and marked secret, outlines in detail how Ukraine’s Soviet-era S-300 air defense systems would be depleted by 2 May at the current usage rate.

        Because of this monumental cock up by the US, to prevent an increased number of Ukrainian deaths resulting from an increased barrage of Russian missiles because of Russia’s confidence that they they won’t be destroyed, or wasted, behoves the US to make up the difference, before May.

        Let not one Russian missile reach its target in Ukraine!

        No Pasarán!

  2. I’ve noticed a pattern ,,,,, To buy the time needed for Nato to train, equip and devise plans for Ukraine’s ‘top soldiers offensive ,,,,, they sacrafise the lives of their low grade soldiers ,,, the old, the young, the hardly trained, the the press-ganged, ,,,, are used to fill trenches and fox-holes.

    The Russians hammer these dug in defenders with Artillery, rockets, drones, missiles and mortars etc ,,,, and when a position/trench is weakened by enough soldiers being killed and maimed ,,, then the position is taken by Russians with minimal losses…..

    But it takes time to kill dug in men ,,,,,, and these poorly trained or old/young men are a good cynical option to have dying in your trenches ,,,,, their lives traded for the time it takes to kill them ,,,,, time essential for the ‘real soldiers’ offensive.

    Before Ukraine’s two simultaneous offenses last year ,,, the POW’s that the Russians were capturing, with lots of old men, poorly equipped soldiers and poor physical conditions,,,,, gave a over exaggerated impression of how degraded the Ukraines Army actually was……

    ….But they were buying time for the pre-offensive training and equipping taking place back then …. I recognize this pattern of Ukraine war death logic now ,,,, because it’s repeating…. and I feel sorry for these men who truly are just ‘cannon fodder’.

    As for Ukraines real Nato trained and ‘motivated’ soldiers ,,,, I hope the Banderite ones get de-nazified ,,,,

    “The New York Times reported, the neo-Nazi group, Right Sector, had the key role in the violent ouster of Yanukovych. The role of neo-fascist groups in the uprising and its influence on Ukrainian society was well reported by mainstream media outlets at the time.”

    Right Sector nowadays being trained and tooled up by the Brits ,,,

    Both sides have gotten rather good at killing each other ,,,,, so the offensive will turn a lot of healthy living people into stinking burned shredded dead meat…. on both sides.

    ,,,, “at the end of the day we know that POWs scales with losses. And POWs, as I recently explained in a past report, are the only metric that give us insight into the real loss ratios because POW is the only metric officially reported at one point or another by both sides. And not surprisingly, Ukraine had about 500-600 Russian POWs at a point when Russia had a confirmed 3000-5000, which quickly ballooned to 8000-10,000 (since this was right before the Mariupol/Azovstal situation where Russia took a total of ~5,000 POWs from Illich factory surrender, Azovstal surrender, and general Mariupol fights).

    So, someone explain to me, how can you have a 5:1 or 10:1 POW disparity, yet the kill ratio favors your side? It’s simply impossible. The POW case proves without a shadow of a doubt what the real loss ratios are.”

    • You overestimate the importance of the Right Sector in the Maidan. They were involved but the main culprits were FSB assassins and the Berkut who slaughtered dozens of civilians presumably on Putin’s orders.
      You are reading dodgy sources.

      • You’d have to be incredibly one eyed, dishonest, or stupid ,,,, to not be aware of the overwhelming and compelling evidence evidence that many if not the majority of the murders in the Maidan massacre were perpetrated by the Western backed Government overthrowers.
        The “Snipers’ Massacre” on the Maidan in Ukraine

        What’s your excuse for missing this staple of western backed coups Gadfly ?, it’s been known about for a very long time … ie, The War on Democracy – Latin America

        • Complete rubbish B. Awakesky. It was not a coup. How much does Prigozhin pay you for your disinformation? I read properly verified and peer reviewed sources not some propaganda posted on YouTube.

  3. Interesting perspective but is it reliable? Wasn’t Finland allied with Nazi Germany in the 2nd world war? And is this really a wise move on Finland behalf considering that they haven’t had bad relationships with Russia since their alliance with Nazi Germany. Finland joining NATO, they along with Estonia IMO will try to close Finnish gulf to Russia. And that means only forced moves for Russia, to open Finnish gulf with force, to break through Suwalki corridor or to roll over Estonia. More war for the transnationals that benefit from continuous war.

    Bakhmut SMO is over the Wagner group with the help of Russian artillery constantly bombarding the Ukrainians funnelling them into a corridor meat grinder and the Ukrainians have suffered huge casualties. And this major spring offensive with 2-3 new corps consisting of 50,000 recruits witness by retired Australian general Mick Ryan is this reliable sourcing?

    The visit to China by the EU politician Ursula von der Leyens and President of France Macron was comical to say the least. Ursula had to go through the normal security checks hand in her passport like a tourist remembering that Macron visit was premeditated months in advance unlike Ursula who thought that she should hitch a ride on Macron boat weeks before this visit last week.

    IMO China will back Russia that a fact, but China want peace unlike the tiny minority in the west want continuous war because it’s profitable for the transnational corporations.

  4. The leaks regarding South Korean military equipment to Ukraine, via Poland, indicates one purpose is to diminish world support for Ukraine.

    The leak going via 4 chan indicates (social media headquarters of white race nation incel red MAGA cap misogyny), it is in accord with the Tucker Carlson (RM’s pet liar as they both admit in court) narrative that support for Ukraine is not an American priority and is bad for dollar dominance.

    So it’s also an attempt to build an alliance between those who put money first and isolationists for control of the GOP.

    The leaking of information shared out to Five Eyes partners indicates a third purpose to reduce trust between partners, trust in government among the public of these nations and reduce the credibility of the group as a security partner (NATO in Europe and QUAD in Asia).

    • Yes , thats part of the plan . Russia could have surrounded Bakhmut months ago cutting of all hope of reinforcement and supply and there are also only two bridges that are vital to the Ukrainian supply route . Russia could of taken them out months ago also .The Russians know the average life expectancy of the new Ukie recruits on the front line in Bakhmut is four hours . Russia is playing them and it is in fact the one with the rope a dope strategy .

  5. If anyone is keen to see how the spy and intelligent service operated during WW2, I can highly recommend “The Secret War” by Max Hastings.

    Absolutely fascinating that much of the intelligence gathered and formulated was ignored by the various factions as untrustworthy. The generals did not trust the spies, the field commander did not trust the generals, the politicians trusted no one. It was hard to sift the good and true from the bad and false.

  6. The “fog of war” is all pervasive. Don’t believe anything you read. Including here. We’ll only find out what really went down once the war is (eventually) over and even then be forced to swallow what victor documents as fact.

    • Now for a bullshit loaded question straight from the Kremlin propaganda handbook.

      “….why do you want NATO to win is the bigger question?”

      Personally speaking, I don’t want NATO to win, I want the Russian imperialists to be crushed, and crushed totally at the hand of the Ukrainian and Russian people, as a lesson to all imperialists that your time is coming to an end.

      Counter to what Kremlin propaganda asserts, what the Russian Federation imperialists are attacking is not NATO, but the right the sovereign people of Ukraine to choose their own independent path, free of Kremlin influence and diktat.
      Putin and his generals were expecting a walkover similar to the 2014 Russian seizure of Crimea.
      I think it came as a big shock to the Russian imperialists that Nato piled in on the side of the Ukrainian people. Another shock was the fierce resistance of the Ukrainian people to the Russian imperialist’s invasion of their country.

      • Well said Pat. I really can’t understand the mentality of people sitting comfortably in New Zealand wishing death and destruction on the Ukrainian people and supporting the bloodthirsty tyrant Putin and his gangsters. They are all too willing to believe the propaganda manufactured by a criminal state intent on subverting the West. But Putin’s siloviki do not speak for the majority of Russians.Instead listen to Russians such as Gary Kasparov, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Mikhail Shishkin – they speak the truth.

  7. What Zelensky should do now is to say to Joe Biden is …” We can’t hold Bakhmut with the most valient efforts of our young men. How can we possibly mount an offensive when we can’t defend against a superpower with an airforce and a military manufacturing capacity that dwarfs that of both Nato and the US. Either you get properly involved in this action ; with your airforce and full spectrum military commitment of the US , or we stop the slaughter of our best young people and make a deal with Russia.” And stick to that commitment.
    D J S

    • Said by the naysayers just before the Tet Offensive;
      ‘What Ho Chi Minh should do now is to say to Nixen is …” We can’t hold Hue with the most valient efforts of our young men. How can we possibly mount an offensive when we can’t defend against a superpower with an airforce and a military manufacturing capacity that dwarfs that of both the Warsaw Pact and Russia. Either you get properly involved in this action ; with your airforce and full spectrum military commitment of the USSR , or we stop the slaughter of our best young people and make a deal with America.” And stick to that commitment.’

      The Russian imperialists need to be afraid. Very afraid.

  8. “Macron, went to China ready to appease – asking for Xi Jin Ping’s help to negotiate with Putin.”

    “appease” is the foreign policy equivalent of calling someone ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ could you elaborate on what was so Chamberlain-esq about Macron’s visit and negotiation with Xi?

    “Macron has consistently been a weak link in the European collective and demonstrates a level of naivety in his relationships with Putin and Xi.”
    Again care to elaborate. Why are other nations like Hungry and Italy not also weak links. Is attempting to find peace by diplomatic means only naive if it’s not sanctioned by Washington?

    The EU from Paris’ perspective, has always been more of a security project than an economic one (as in Germany). Therefore conflict on the doorstep is of special concern. Further Paris is fully aware that the ‘European collective’ (aka the US-led European collective) is not necessarily operating in France’s best interests let alone Europe’s. Early in the war when Ukraine wanted to negotiate (as did France and Germany), Boris Johnson went to Kiev to inform Zelenskyy that the US forbade this, so like Brazil’s Lula there are good reasons to seek peace outside of US auspices.

    That is not to say France or Macron is a good-actor. After Brexit, Merkel leaving office and with the German industrial model under threat without cheap Russian energy, France is set to become the dominant nation in the EU boosted by resource/financial extraction from Francophone Africa.
    It appears Macron is seeking a peace in France’s own interests rather than of the US. Isn’t that more like Realpolitik than naivety?


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