It failed to prevent a war, but almost everything the U.S. said Russia would do in Ukraine has come to pass.
The intelligence that President Joe Biden made public in a highly unusual step gave the world a preview of Vladimir Putin’s true intentions, robbing him of the element of surprise. It also gave the U.S. time to rally support from its allies on sanctions that in normal circumstances would have taken months to hash out.
Last November, the U.S. privately warned allies in Europe that Putin had plans to invade Ukraine. Officials shared maps and intelligence outlining how Russia was planning to double troop numbers around Ukraine. They spelled out where Putin would place artillery, and ground, air and naval forces to strike its neighbor. They previewed how a series of cyber attacks and a drumbeat of disinformation would set the stage for an attack.
It was a real-time chronicle of an invasion foretold even though right until the end no one knew whether Putin would really do it. In the early hours of Thursday morning, Russia entered Ukraine from the north, south and east, targeting multiple cities — just as the U.S. and the U.K. warned it would.
Given the intelligence failures of the past, most damagingly in 2003 with Iraq, the U.S. couldn’t afford to get this wrong. Two decades later, controlling the narrative on social platforms is critical to shaping perceptions. Sending Americans to fight was out of the question, so the White House had to drive public opinion — and unlike in Russia’s previous invasion of Ukraine in 2014, it decided to go public with what it knew. [Continue reading…]