The United States is placing itself in a difficult position when it comes to Russia and the Ukraine war, according to past and present U.S. officials.
According to these officials, The U.S. is providing data on Russian troops, tanks and ships. However, Ukraine is the one who makes the final decision as to whom to attack and when.
Information that the U.S. has been assisting Ukraine in its war with Russia, including intelligence on the position of the Russian flagship, the Moskva, and of the position of Russian generals on the battlefield have placed focus on U.S. involvement and the repercussions it could have. The United States has denied providing information on the Moskva.
Up until Russia began the war, the United States has publicized declassified intelligence about Russia’s plans. When the war started, the U.S. continued to supply data, but was cautious about what intelligence it handed over to Ukraine. The United States rejected accusations that it was instructing Ukraine on which Russian assets to target.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. didn’t give Ukraine “specific targeting information” when it came to Ukraine’s attack and sinking of the Russian ship Moskva, nor did the U.S. have prior knowledge of the attack.
Psaki commented that “We do provide a range of intelligence to help them understand the threat posed by Russian ships in the Black Sea and help them prepare to defend themselves against potential sea-based assaults.”
As the war continues, there is concern that the Untied States will be unable to continue its attempted balance of helping Ukraine while not being an active participant in the war. Former officials have said that Russia is unlikely to see the U.S. as a non-participant, heightening the risk that Russia will see the United States as directly participating in the deaths of Russian soldiers.
Dan Hoffman, retired CIA officer who served in Russia: “The way [the United States sees] it, we’re giving them tactical intelligence — which is, there’s a command center here, there’s a naval vessel there. [Ukraine] make their own decisions.”
When it comes to Russia’s view of this, Hoffman says that Russia sees this as a proxy war with the United States.
While the United States as supplied weapons and intelligence to other actors engaged against Russia before, the war with Ukraine presents the most stark possibility of direct confrontation with Russia.
In April, the U.S. significantly expanded the intelligence it provides Ukraine, including satellite imagery and possibly communications intercepts. However, the United States clarified that it has not provided information to strike Russian territory nor military or civilian leaders.
According to the United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.” Russia has stated that the United States wants to see humiliated and cornered.