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Ukraine’s Secret Weapon Against Russia: U.S. Intelligence

Ukraine Russia
Russian T-90 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The United States has put its intelligence community to work on behalf of Ukraine. The information it provides may prove more lethal than any of the weapons that NATO is sending to fight against Russia.

Two stories broke yesterday that confirms the profound role of U.S. intelligence support for the Ukrainian war effort. The first story revealed that the United States has been supplying some of the intelligence that has enabled the Ukrainian armed forces to target and destroy Russian command posts, coincidentally or not killing an unprecedented number of Russian general officers. The second story gave truth to rumors that the United States had been involved in the sinking of the Russian Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva, having confirmed to Ukrainian officials the ship’s location before the missile strike that inflicted fatal damage on the cruiser. The Biden administration has pushed back a bit on these claims but officials in the intelligence community and in the administration are clearly happy to talk to reporters. 

The reports we have thus far are vague about how U.S.-supplied data fits into the information economy of the Ukrainian armed forces. For maximum effectiveness, data would be rapidly defused to units operating along the frontline who can use it before it becomes obsolete. In war, being right at the wrong time is the same as being wrong. We do not know at what level US entities communicate information to their counterparts on the Ukrainian side. Still, especially concerning the killing of Russian general officers, who move about very rapidly and are hard to fix, it doesn’t seem that there are too many buffers between the identification of opportunity and the execution of an attack. 

The United States has, over the past several decades, constructed an enormously impressive array of systems designed to sift information out of complicated spaces and turn that information into actionable intelligence. The military origins of the current system existed as far back as the 1970s (with antecedents even to World War I). Still, the system was honed in the Wars on Terror, where intelligence assets were needed to track the movements and activities of small units and even individuals in both wide-open spaces and complicated urban environments. The system collects information from satellites, signals intercepts, the electromagnetic spectrum, cyberspace, drones, and other aircraft when they are available. This system represents one-half of what has become known as the reconnaissance strike complex, a system of systems that allows a see-er to deliver targets that a shooter will then kill. This is the most modern incarnation of the “modern system” that has governed ground combat since the latter days of the First World War. 

We know now that the American system of surveillance is superior to the Russian system, and that the Biden administration has substantially put this system to work in helping Ukrainians kill Russians. The importance of the provision of information in high-intensity war literally cannot be overemphasized; the United States can try to find the sinews of Russian military power and help the Ukrainians sever them. There is undoubtedly a synergy between the surveillance system and the weapons that the United States and others have been transferring to Ukraine. Intelligence can identify weakly protected columns of armored vehicles that can be attacked and destroyed with Javelin missiles. 

Soon, long-range Ukrainian artillery pieces delivered by the United States will be able to strike critical Russian military targets miles behind the front. Information gleaned from the United States can be confirmed and integrated with video footage supplied by TB2 drones, enabling more lethal strikes on Russian forces. 

U.S. assistance may get even more lethal as time goes by. As the weather over Ukraine clears, American satellites may be able to provide even more information about Russian troop movements and deployments. But of course, there are dangers in all of this. It is quite surprising that the US government has owned up to even part of its role in killing Russian generals, much less the destruction of the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. Supplying intelligence to Ukrainian troops in the field does not mean the United States is at war with Russia in any kind of legal sense of the term, but it does mean that the United States is deeply implicated in the conflict in ways that are arguably more important than the transfer of vast amounts of military equipment to Ukraine. The United States is essentially telling Russian soldiers “we see you, and we can kill you.” It remains to be seen what the Russians will say in response

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Robert Farley is a Senior Lecturer at the Patterson School at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), and Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020).

Written By

Dr. Robert Farley has taught security and diplomacy courses at the Patterson School since 2005. He received his BS from the University of Oregon in 1997, and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 2004. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), and Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020). He has contributed extensively to a number of journals and magazines, including the National Interest, the Diplomat: APAC, World Politics Review, and the American Prospect. Dr. Farley is also a founder and senior editor of Lawyers, Guns and Money.



  1. Alex

    May 6, 2022 at 12:40 pm

    US intelligence is excellent at helping the Bandera Nazis: every day, the Ukrainians of Donbass, with the support of Russian troops, raise flags over new settlements liberated from the Bandera Nazis. Keep it up.

    • Joe Comment

      May 6, 2022 at 3:15 pm

      Alex: Russian propaganda is excellent at influencing people on the internet. Every day, the readers of this site, with the support of fact checking, realize how out of touch with reality the Russian positions are. Keep it up.

    • Him

      May 7, 2022 at 9:10 am


      The number of Russians who, along with Stalin, cooperated wit Nazi Germany at the start of WW2, was FAR GREATER than the number of Bandera Nazis who did the same.

      You refuse to admit this.

      You are like Jew-hater who suddenly discovers that he has Jewish blood. Except in reverse. You are a Nazi-hater who suddenly discovers that, in Russia’s history, it was Russia who helped the Nazis, at least at the start.

      Alex, tell me how many Bandera-Nazis there were.

      Now, Alex, tell me how many Soviet-Russians-allied with Nazi Germany. It was the entire Soviet Russian nation.

      You get the picture that it was you Russians who were the biggest Nazi collaborators.

  2. Rich

    May 6, 2022 at 4:15 pm

    If there is one thing this war has shown is that the US is decades ahead of Russia in the C3 arena. America’s ability to integrate it’s intelligence assets into actionable information and get it to the tip of the spear in a timely fashion dwarfs that of any other country on earth. This US capability is a force multiplier which totally negates any advantage a potential foe may possess in a given weapons category. Thus Russia’s massed artillery and armor formations are rendered near useless by a second tier military using the intelligence provided. One can only imagine the lopsided outcome if this C3 capability was being used by US forces in the field where weapons and units are fully integrated into the C3 system. I would offer the destruction of the Iraqi Republican Guard units as an example of this; and that was with systems that are now a generation out of date. A fully integrated C3 system with weapons specifically designed to take advantage of those capabilities knows no match on the battlefield

  3. aldol11

    May 6, 2022 at 4:54 pm

    Russia is finished:

  4. Alex

    May 7, 2022 at 10:27 am

    The US is losing the war in Ukraine. The whole world is watching how Russia beats the Anglo-Saxons.

  5. Donald Link

    May 7, 2022 at 10:54 am

    Side note: The best efforts by the Russian government to suppress news of Russian casualties is not succeeding. It is difficult to hide the 15K plus dead soldiers from the people. There are a few openly opposed to the war but many more who quietly speak to others of their opposition. There is still the bad memory of the Afghanistan adventure and most people want no more of that idiocy.

  6. Alex

    May 8, 2022 at 10:45 am

    German journalist Thomas Röper continues to publish his materials with photo and video evidence. The lies of the Bandera Nazis stop working, the CIA specialists cannot even help.

    “When we crossed the border, the Ukrainian border post was pretty much destroyed, but that’s all. There were several cars on the side of the road then, which, as our companion told us, were hastily moved across the road by the Ukrainian army to block the road. But tanks cannot be stopped by several cars .

    In addition, we did not see any damage, except for some damaged safety fences. The Russian army passed there without meeting any resistance, and in all the places where we passed, everything was intact, not a single window was broken. Life also went on as usual, shops and gas stations were open, cars were driving, people were on the streets, and so on. If someone did not know, nothing would indicate that an army had just passed through here.

    Experienced fellow journalists, such as a Dutch journalist with experience in Syria, found this very impressive. She told us that she knows her differently than she knows Syria because when the US Army advances, helicopters fly forward, shooting at anything that moves to prevent ambushes. She told me that even if no civilians were harmed, the devastation where the US Army had advanced was significant.

    This was confirmed by an American among journalists, a former US Marine. By the way, he has an interesting story, because he has been living in Russia for six years and received political asylum because he asked too many critical questions in the United States on a sensitive topic. In the USA, of course, they tell it differently, but that’s another topic.

    What also stood out was the poverty in Ukraine. For those who, like me, still know Russia from the 1990s, there was a feeling that they had traveled back in time to the 90s. Today Russia is a clean country with modern cities where entire districts have been rebuilt. I have linked a video that makes this clear.

    Ukraine still looks the same as the then Russia. Broken roads, dilapidated bus stops, dilapidated, dilapidated houses, a lot of old Soviet cars and so on. Even the joyless clothes of people reminds of the 90s in Russia. It touched me very much because it brought back some memories of that time and the problems of my friends at that time. But this can only be understood by those who have experienced it for themselves.

    I expected that the opponents of the Russian military operation would not talk to us, because they should be afraid of Russian soldiers. However, everything was exactly the opposite. The opponents told the Russian soldiers to their faces that they were not welcome here and that they should go home. They are clearly not at all afraid of Russian soldiers and call them names, sometimes harshly, to which Russian soldiers stoically do not react.

    Those who are afraid, we all quickly noticed, are the supporters of the Russian operation. They walked past the soldiers and unobtrusively whispered words of gratitude and something like “finally!” or “Don’t go again!” them.

    Disgruntled people also grabbed every microphone and stood in front of every camera, expressing their displeasure, while the supporters of the operation were difficult to film and interview the supporters of the operation. One of the few exceptions was an elderly woman who said she was 72 and not afraid. She almost cried with joy in front of the camera and thanked Russia.

    The fear, as I learned from whispering conversations with some of the stakeholders, is that Russia might leave again, and then they will have to expect reprisals and even worse consequences for their propaganda of Russian intervention, as they did after the Maidan. The most famous, but far from the only case was the Odessa tragedy in May 2014, when more than 40 people were burned alive in Odessa by Maidan supporters. This massacre is cynically called “Odessa barbecue” by nationalists in Ukraine and has not yet been disclosed.

    In general, the life of opponents of the authorities in Ukraine after the Maidan was not safe, political assassinations were not uncommon, and the UNHCR also mentioned this more than once in its human rights reports on Ukraine. But it is one thing to know this and read about it, and quite another when you experience this fear so tangibly. Fear was also manifested in the fact that many did not even want to be seen in the background of the picture. Most of them avoided the cameras and always walked behind the cameramen so as not to get into the frame.

    And something else was said in the reaction of people. Due to the fact that we were under the protection of Russian soldiers, people might think that we were pro-Russian. But when they heard that we were from the West, many refused to talk to us at all. Many would probably talk to the Russian media, but almost no one wanted to be in front of a Dutch, Italian or even American camera.

    Один из согласившихся настоял на том, чтобы интервью давали на английском, а не на русском, потому что боялся, что западные СМИ исказят его слова. Это был опыт, которого я не ожидал в Украине. Затем он положительно отозвался о российской военной операции.

    Where we were, life basically went on as usual. What shocked me was the fear of the people who support the Russian side. Seeing this, this anxiety of the people, it was depressing. I was also surprised by the visible poverty in Ukraine. I didn’t expect to see it so clearly. The infrastructure is still from the Soviet Union and since then little has been done, much has fallen into disrepair, especially empty factories and really bad roads stand out.

    I was pleased with the man’s answer to the question of who is more Russian or Ukrainian in the city. His answer was:

    “We don’t make any difference! Besides, so many nations live here; Armenians, Georgians, Greeks, we are all one family!”

    That’s what I wish for Ukraine to return to this: to be one big family, because it was this Maidan government that they wanted to expel from Ukraine, relying on radical nationalism.

    The Ukrainians will be able to defeat the Bandera Nazis in the same way as their ancestors once did.”

  7. Коти

    May 8, 2022 at 6:05 pm

    Does anyone else look through the comments here just to see what “Alex” et al post? The “Internet Research Agency” in Moscow is working overtime these days.

  8. CK

    May 10, 2022 at 10:07 am

    Yes. I have rebuked and broken down exactly how they operate in numerous posts. It’s very interesting to see how they act, and how oblivious they are to how obvious they come across as to anyone else.

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