US intelligence officials admit that the Russian army did not consider it a “hollow army.” Here’s what they saw and how they missed it.


The letter Z, which became the Russian emblem of the war, is found on the Russian APC blown off near Kutuzivka in eastern Ukraine on Friday, May 13, 2022.

A Russian armored personnel carrier destroyed on May 13, 2022 near Kutuzivka in eastern Ukraine.Bernat Armangue / AP Photo

  • Many US officials have assumed that Russia’s attack on Ukraine would be a swift victory for Moscow.

  • As the dispute approaches four months, these US authorities are revisiting their assumptions.

  • False assessments reflect the difficulty of inheriting the ability of other troops to analyze.

More than 100 days have passed since Russia resumed its attack on Ukraine, and the world is aware that Russian troops are not believed.

The US military, which is believed to be an enemy close to Pier, and the Russian army, where intelligence agencies have not appeared. The forces that emerged were blunted by Ukrainian troops whose main thrust was smaller. After suffering great casualties and achieving several objectives, Moscow withdrew its troops and lowered its ambitions.

Something is wrong with the Russian military’s US assessment, and the Pentagon and intelligence have admitted that they have overlooked signs that Moscow is actually defending the “hollow army.”

Hits and misses

Russian tank with

On March 11, 2022, members of the pro-Russian army jumped from a tank in the separatist-controlled town of Volnovakha in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.Alexander Elmochenko / Reuters

US intelligence underestimates Ukraine’s determination, overestimates Russia’s military power, and then conducts an internal review of the process.

The false assessment in Ukraine comes after a very poor assessment of the Pentagon’s Afghan troops, who believed that US leaders could thwart the Taliban for months after the withdrawal of the United States.

At a hearing of the Senate Military Commission in May, we asked Director of National Intelligence of Defense Avril Haines and Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, Director of National Intelligence of Defense, about the assumptions of government agencies in Ukraine, focusing on Kieu’s assessment. did. It will collapse in 3-4 days and the war will only last for 2 weeks.

“We evaluated their ability to face the scale of Russian troops accumulated on their borders would be very difficult for them,” Verrier said of the Ukrainians.

Ukrainian Soldier RPG Sniper Rifle Irpin

Ukrainian troops will walk towards the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 13, 2022.DIMITARDIL KOFF / AFP via Getty Images

“It was like this hollow force that we didn’t see from the inside,” said the Russians, lacking effective non-commissioned officer corps, leadership training, and effective doctrine. Talked about. “These are intangible assets that we must have the weapons to actually understand as an intelligence community.”

Under pressure from lawmakers, Verrier said the DIA would look closely at what it missed, emphasizing that “there was far more success than failure in the overall operation.”

US intelligence misinterpreted the effectiveness of Russian and Ukrainian troops, but provided accurate information about Russia’s intentions months before the Russian attack that began on February 24.

These accurate assessments (many of which the White House has published to allies and the general public) have helped to gain international support for Ukraine and build US credibility.

How the United States evaluates foreign troops

Victory Day Parade in Russia

On May 9, 2016, at the Red Square in Moscow, a parade will be held by Russian troops on Victory Day to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the victory in World War II.Reuters / Grigory Ducor

Intelligence analysts face some hurdles in assessing enemy abilities.

“When dealing with foreign actors, analysts can be the prey of many mental traps, including confirmation bias, availability bias, and even support for existing analytical lines over new information.” Said former Russian analyst Michael E. Van Landingham, the CIA told insiders.

“Analysts need to constantly check themselves and each other through a variety of formal and informal analysis methods to make sure there are no misjudgments,” added Van Landingham.

US intelligence agencies rely on several intelligence gathering methods to provide an analytical process.

Human intelligence, the most traditional method, is most valuable for some sources because it provides direct insight into the enemy’s plans and intentions. Signal intelligence is collected from interception of electronic communications.

Russian battlegroups at the Pogonovo Training Ground on January 26, 2022.

Russian battlegroups at the Pogonovo Training Ground on January 26, 2022.Satellite image © 2022 Maxar Technologies

Open Source Intelligence, the new child of the Intelligence Block, brings together information published by sources such as the press and social media. Image intelligence uses images taken by satellites and aircraft to record enemy movements.

Analysts rely on all of the above methods to notify policy makers, but analysts (and policy makers) must accept that they know little about the big picture.

When dealing with deceptive and counterintelligence-skilled enemies, especially Russian security services known for their aggressive and complex methods, the collection gaps are wider and darker.

Van Landingham, founder of risk analysis and research, said:Hard Active Measures..

“In any case, many policy makers will demand more information than you can get, or there is a significant” known unknown “that prevents analysts from placing a high degree of confidence in their decisions. “Van Landingham added.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a veteran of the Greek Army (the 575th Marine Battalion and the National Service of the Army Council), and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.

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