The Pentagon documents present a multitude of reflections, reinforcing and diminishing perceptions. Firstly, the revelations disclose the methods of human and technical intelligence used by US intelligence agencies, including human source intelligence, intercept technologies, pictographs, advanced satellite technology, talent keyholes, assessments, among others.
Secondly, the documents underline that the US snoops on its foes as well as friends. Besides spying on traditional enemies like China, Iran, and North Korea, the US has also gathered inputs about Israel, South Korea, Israel, and Five Eyes countries. A few of the leaked documents were marked as FVEY (Five Eyes intelligence alliance), meant to be shared with the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, while others were marked as NOFORN (Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals), Secret, Top Secret, Confidential – all meant for the exclusive use of the US.
The disclosures portray a clearer picture of the present situationo of the Russia-Ukraine War and have strengthened Russia's claims about the presence of NATO forces and the direct involvement of NATO nations in Ukraine.
Thirdly, the common man across the world has come across the fact that the perception of geopolitical dynamics is virtually created. What exists could be far from reality. US apprehensions about Israel and Egypt possibly supplying weapons to Russia is a vivid example. The snooping on the UAE by the US and apprehension of the latter about its Middle East ally adds to this belief.
Fourthly, the disclosures portray a clearer picture of the present situation of the Russia-Ukraine War and have strengthened Russia’s claims about the presence of NATO forces and the direct involvement of NATO nations in Ukraine. As the largest number of documents were on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, many of them revealed that it is not a one-sided war and that Ukraine is not the only one to have suffered large casualties. In fact, one of the documents suggested that Russia suffered far more military casualties in the war than Ukraine. Similarly, the ground capability of Ukraine at 83% is way better than Russia’s which has a ground capability of 63%, according to the US assessment. The documents present a clear picture of the positions of Ukrainian and Russian armies, the deployment of defence systems, and the capabilities of both nations.
Fifthly, the confidential papers stress the complexity and future of the Russia-Ukraine war. They confirm that it is not a two-sided conflict but involves many nations who are actively aiding both countries. On emerging trends and the future of the war, a leaked document from the US Defense Intelligence Agency stated that “negotiations to end the conflict are unlikely during 2023”.
Sixthly, the leaks reflect the importance of non-state actors in global geopolitics and the influence they hold. The role of the Wagner Group and the Chechen rebels in Russian campaigns as well as their engagements with Turkish entities underline the advantage the mercenaries provide during wartime. Turkey is itself known to have deployed its mercenaries in Syria, Yemen, Nagorno-Karabakh, and elsewhere in the world. Mercenary armies are harsh realities that the world needs to focus on.
One of the documents suggested that Russia suffered far more military casualties in the war than Ukraine. Similarly, the ground capability of Ukraine at 83% is way better than Russia's which has a ground capability of 63%, according to the US assessment.
Seventhly, the papers shed light on the illicit trade tactics by countries for trading weapons and ammunition to evade the eyes of global agencies and customs laws. The disclosures on Wagner Group and Turkey discussing the trade of weapons by using Mali as the transit-point, the apprehension of the US about Israel’s possibility of supplying weapons to Ukraine through third parties by using the ‘Turkish Model’, and China planning to supply weaponry consignment to Russia as civilian items highlight the unfortunate trend.
The role of the Wagner Group and the Chechen rebels in Russian campaigns as well as their engagements with Turkish entities underline the advantage the mercenaries provide during wartime.
Eighthly, the leaks portray how regimes in power utilise geopolitical developments for gaining benefits at the domestic front: for ‘manufacturing consent’ for their voters and support base. The discussions by Iranian officials about giving a spin to the IAEA head’s visit to Iran for political gains is an example. Geopolitical developments do have a great influence on local electorates. With the leaks coming out in public, the opposition in South Korea has been aggressively attacking President Yoon Suk Yeol’s government for compromising the nation’s interests.
Ninthly, leaked Pentagon papers present a snapshot of geopolitical dynamics in the Middle East. They have reflected the increasing trust deficit between the US and two of its strongest allies in the Islamic Ummah: the UAE and Egypt. Although the countries are aligned with the US, at the same time they are limiting themselves from alienating Russia and are open to the possibility of strengthening ties with Russia. The US assessment on Israel shows how the latter is trying not to openly oppose Russia, given the complex relationship both countries have in the Middle East and the tussle they go through in Syria.
On emerging trends and the future of the war, a leaked document from the US Defense Intelligence Agency stated that “negotiations to end the conflict are unlikely during 2023.
Tenthly and finally, a large number of news websites have come up with stories on the leaked papers to which only they have access. A few of them are also funded by governments and have previously been found indulging in propaganda operations. A few websites belonging to the MENA nations, Russia, and different parts of the world, have made blanket claims about disclosures in the documents, which only they could access. What follows is usually the line of narrative that they have been trying to propagate. These claims, of course, are unverifiable.
The Pentagon papers leak has triggered a series of refutals, rebuttals, allegations and counter-allegations. Besides presenting a picture of emerging geopolitical dynamics, they have widened the trust gap between allies. However, it has also led to far-reaching consequences of security threats to the US, which, in the words of the Pentagon itself, have posed a “very serious” risk to the national security of the US. The US needs to make assessments of its continuous failure to prevent such leaks. It might consider the words of American commentator Bill O'Reilly, who once famously said – “Gross negligence in handling national security is a felony.”
Rajinder Kumar Vij
Rajinder Kumar Vij
Devendra Kumar Sharma