It is times like this that I wish I was sitting in front of my Top Secret terminal inside the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (aka SCIF) reading the latest intel on the battle in Ukraine. Something is not right. Early Tuesday morning Ukraine time, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev issued a security alert warning Americans to get out of Ukraine asap and to avoid taking a plane.
During my tenure with the Department of State’s Office of Counterterrorism (now known as the Bureau of Counter Terrorism), these warnings would only be sent out if we thought we had solid intelligence. And the Department of State, by virtue of being a sclerotic bureaucracy, would lag two or three days behind the date the intelligence info became available. In other words, if Embassy Kiev is putting out this warning on Tuesday morning then the the intelligence behind the alert emerged the previous Thursday or Friday.
The Kiev Embassy alert appears to be quite specific and certainly is urgent in its tone. Get out now. Reminds me of the scene from the movie GET OUT (Go to the 1:30 mark to see the relevant dialogue):
The Embassy made it clear that this was not a suggestion or even a recommendation. Russia was going to do something bad in Kiev and Lviv and other Ukrainian towns and Americans would be at risk. Run for your lives.
When I saw that alert I reached out to some friends still in the intel community. They are always careful not to violate their non-disclosure agreement, but I can get an idea of how serious the intel is concerning the threat motivating this reaction by State Department. My friends were scratching their heads. They had no idea what motivated this. There was no new intelligence signalling an impending monster air attack by Russia.
But it was not just State raising the red flag. The Ukrainian government, with Zelensky in the lead, were out in force of warning about impending doom. They cancelled all 24 August Ukrainian independence day celebrations and parades. They appeared spooked.
So what was up? Did western intelligence intercept valid Russian communications about a planned attack? Did the public warnings about Russian attacks persuade Moscow to call off the aerial assault? Was Russia deliberately leaking information in order to gauge western and Ukraine reactions? Or is the attack still to come and Russia is just biding its time watching gleefully as the west and Ukraine run about frantically waiting for the bombs to drop?
To reiterate a point I raised in my previous article–if Russia launches massive strikes on Kiev, Lviv, Kharkov, Odesa and Sumy this week, this will mark a watershed moment. It is a departure from Russia’s current rules of engagement to limit civilian casualties. There is little doubt among Russian experts that Ukraine’s bombing of civilian areas in the Donbas, the shelling of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant and the murder of Darina Dugina have enraged Moscow. Think of Churchill’s reaction to the first Nazi bombing (a mistake by the way) of civilian areas in London in September 1940–he ordered retaliatory strikes on Berlin. Perhaps Moscow may take off the gloves and start hitting Ukraine and the west in their command and government centres.
My own guess is that the west is reacting to a Russian deception campaign. Why would the Russians do that? Watching the ensuing activity at various locations would give Russia a better idea of what to target in the future, for example. Or, it could divert the attention of Ukrainian military authorities from other areas in southern Ukraine where Russia appears to be stepping up operations.
One other peripherally related topic–the western propaganda campaign is roaring at full blast and Moon of Alabama offers up a terrific article detailing the craziness. Make sure you read it. Also, Andrei Martyanov offers a very credible explanation for the pace of the Russian offensive. Another must read.