The leaked documents on the Ukraine war are chilling

By | April 11, 2023

David Ignatius writes:

Intelligence is always about what philosophers call epistemology — the study of how we know what we know. But let’s try to focus on facts, by examining some baseline themes in the documents that accord with information from other sources. By restricting ourselves to this subset of information supported by collateral evidence, we can make out some basic themes.

First, Ukraine is facing a severe shortage of air defense weapons that could cost it the war. We knew it had a problem from last week’s announcement that the United States was rushing an additional $2.6 billion in air defense systems and other weapons. The new package includes ammunition for Patriot and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, missile batteries; nine gun trucks and 10 anti-drone laser systems; new air surveillance radars, antiaircraft ammunition and Grad rockets.

The raw numbers about the air defense shortage recorded in a Feb. 23 document are scary. Ukraine depends on Soviet-era SA-10s and SA-11s for 89 percent of its air defense over 20,000 feet. At current firing rates, the document predicted, the SA-11s would be depleted by March 31 and the SA-10s by May 2. Other systems “are unable to match the Russian volume” of attacks, and the shortage is so severe that “multiple mitigating options must be simultaneously pursued.”

If Ukraine can’t fill this gap, Russia could finally have the “air superiority” to attack Ukrainian ground targets at will, the document notes. That means Ukraine might not be able to mass ground forces for its counteroffensive or protect its cities.

Second, the West’s “arsenal of democracy” isn’t close to matching Ukraine’s needs. In theory, logistics should be Ukraine’s great advantage against a Russia facing what were supposed to be “crippling” sanctions. But there’s a bad mismatch between Ukraine’s expenditure of missiles and ammunition and the West’s supplies. Partly that’s a result of the Ukrainians firing too much ammunition, but the documents describe desperate efforts to persuade nations such as South Korea and Israel to sell lethal weapons to Ukraine. [Continue reading…]