If you had any doubts that Putin’s War was turning firmly in favor of the Zelensky government and against Russia’s Vladimir Putin, you can put them aside. NBC News is running a major story headlined U.S. intel helped Ukraine protect air defenses, shoot down Russian plane carrying hundreds of troops.
As Russia launched its invasion, the U.S. gave Ukrainian forces detailed intelligence about exactly when and where Russian missiles and bombs were intended to strike, prompting Ukraine to move air defenses and aircraft out of harm’s way, current and former U.S. officials told NBC News.
That near real-time intelligence-sharing also paved the way for Ukraine to shoot down a Russian transport plane carrying hundreds of troops in the early days of the war, the officials say, helping repel a Russian assault on a key airport near Kyiv.
It was part of what American officials call a massive and unprecedented intelligence-sharing operation with a non-NATO partner that they say has played a crucial role in Ukraine’s success to date against the larger and better-equipped Russian military.
The lead reporter on the story was the Intelligence Community’s and FusionGPS’s go-to guy, Ken Delanian. Delanian is basically a stenographer for the IC who, in the past, has submitted his reporting to the CIA for pre-publication review and correction.
The story goes on to sing the praises of the intelligence community’s work in keeping Ukraine in the fight.
“From the get-go, we leaned pretty heavily forward in sharing both strategic and actionable intelligence with Ukraine,” a U.S. official briefed on the matter told NBC News. “It’s been impactful both at a tactical and strategic level. There are examples where you could tell a pretty clear story that this made a major difference.”
Ukraine continues to move air defenses and aircraft nearly every day with the help of American intelligence, which is one reason Russia has not been able to establish air dominance. In some cases, Ukraine moved the targeted air defense systems or planes just in time, the officials said.
“The Russian military has literally been cratering empty fields where air defenses were once set up,” one U.S. official said. “It has had an enormous impact on the Russian military’s ability on the ground.”
This is why I say the war is going in Ukraine’s favor, or at least that is how the IC perceives it. If one goes back to the early days of the invasion. You find the IC predicting Russia would take Kiev and saying they were only “sharing downgraded intelligence with the Ukrainians, including about Russian military moves, in an attempt to help Ukraine on the battlefield.”
This is Delanian on the same subject, and I assume with the same sources, in early March.
Officials say the U.S. has long shared intelligence with Ukraine and continues to do so, but lawmakers say the issue of helping the Ukrainian forces with targeting information for deadly attacks is one of the many difficult quandaries officials confront as they try to help Ukraine fight off a Russian invasion without becoming embroiled in a military conflict with a nuclear-armed superpower.
“We want to support the Ukrainians in every way we possibly can, without going to war with Russia,” Smith said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “When it comes to intel-sharing and targeting, that’s a fine line.”
The U.S. is providing some intelligence to Ukraine, he said, but not “real-time targeting.”
If you recall the daily warnings issued by the IC for about a week before the invasion, they were framed as getting inside Putin’s head; letting him know that we knew what he was up to so that he wouldn’t attack. And then, when the invasion happened, they claimed they predicted it perfectly. This is the quintessential “heads I win, tails you lose” situation the IC loves.
I have serious doubts that there have been very many situations where intelligence played a role in an anti-aircraft battery moving. It might have happened, but it seems highly unlikely. Once the radar is turned on, a lot of people know where you are. There is one story here that I have a lot of doubts about, and that would be the main story.
According to the article, US intelligence enabled Ukraine to target not one but two IL-76 transport planes, allegedly loaded with troops, and bring them down.
The IL-76 is a huge plane roughly comparable to the C-17 Globemaster. It isn’t hard to imagine 120 or more troops and their equipment and vehicles inside.
— blue-boy-786 (@blueboy7862) April 22, 2022
Early on the first day of the attack, Russian paratroopers in the air assault mode landed at Hostomel Airport near Kiev.
— TankDiary (@TankDiary) April 17, 2022
Helicopter landings of the Russian Airborne Troops/VDV at the Hostomel Airport seen from the first person perspective. February 24, 2022.pic.twitter.com/7KjkOUiO5V
— Status-6 (@Archer83Able) March 12, 2022
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) March 20, 2022
The concept was that paratroopers would immediately take down the airport and be reinforced by an air -anding operation. Had it gone off as planned, a Russian airborne battalion with armored vehicles would have been just a few miles from the Ukrainian capital just hours after the war started. By the way, if you ever find yourself defending against a Russian force, or anyone trained by them, remember this. They used the same game plan when they invaded Afghanistan.
Early on, we heard stories of two of these planes being shot down. The source was the Ukrainian State Special Communications Agency. This quote is from the Jerusalem Post.
The military also said it had shot down a Russian helicopter and SU-25 aircraft at around midnight on Saturday, and reported shooting down an II-76 Russian transport plane carrying paratroopers near Vasylkiv, a city 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Kyiv, an account confirmed by a senior American intelligence official.
A second Russian Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane was shot down near Bila Tserkva, 50 miles (85 kilometers) south of Kyiv, according to two American officials with direct knowledge of conditions on the ground in Ukraine.
The planes were reported shot down at the locations indicated below.
The story should have been a huge PR event for Ukraine, but it vanished. It took place within an hour’s drive from Kiev. Russian troops never occupied the area of the crashes. And it isn’t like an Il-76 crash site is small and discreet or that there isn’t a massive number of cell phone cameras available in Ukraine.
Relevantly, in 2014 LPR separatists shot down a Ukrainian IL-76 with a shoulder-launched MANPADS. The crash site is clearly visible on imagery. pic.twitter.com/IFKdEzlLiR
— Josh Marcinik (@joshspatial) April 26, 2022
I contend that had two giant airplanes, full of Russian paratroopers, been shot down in Kiev’s suburbs; we would have been inundated with images of the crash site. Yet as far as I can tell, the only US outlet that picked up the story was the Washington Examiner. Not even the sources whispering in Delanian’s ear mentioned it at the time.
Open-source intelligence fans are working overtime to document equipment losses in this war, but when you look at the list of equipment verified as destroyed, only one Russian cargo plane, an An-26, is on the list. The An-26 is a twin-engine turboprop and not easy to confuse with a mammoth Il-76.
Russian Air Force RF-36074 An-26 has been shot down/crashed over an unknown area. pic.twitter.com/8l09KPrYPP
— Kemal (@kemal_115) February 24, 2022
Making the matter much stranger is the location of the two alleged shoot-down events. They don’t seem to be where aircraft supporting the airport take-down at Hostomel should be. If it were necessary to fly a racetrack while waiting, one would think they would do that north of Kiev, not right over the capital.
In short, everything about this story indicates it didn’t happen. There are no images of wrecks despite the crashes allegedly taking place in the suburbs of Kiev. There is virtually no media coverage. The Ukrainians never mention it.
Why did the IC “officials” who fed stuff to Delanian push this story out, and why Delanian and his co-authors didn’t attempt a fact check?
That leads me to how we know the inside-the-beltway folks think the war is going well for Ukraine. If it were going bad, we’d hear stories about the imminent fall of Kiev and how the stupid Ukrainians refused to use all the great intel they were getting. Instead, this story is how the fat-asses-wears-glasses set at Langley or wherever might as well be dispatching Spetsznaz troopers with a Louisville Slugger.
What needs to be investigated is why Delanian’s sources take credit for an event that appears to have been created by the Ukrainian propaganda machine and perpetrate yet another IC fraud on the American people. I suspect Delanian’s sources have nothing at all to do with Ukraine and are just passing along lunchroom gossip and watercooler talk so they can see themselves quoted.
There might be an explanation for this story that doesn’t involve dumbf***ery and a reporter too lazy to attempt “fact checking,” but right now, my imagination is coming up dry.