The Central Intelligence Agency is operating in Kyiv and has been for some time, according to new reporting by the New York Times. So, while Biden has insisted on “no U.S. boots on the ground” in Ukraine, there are soft-soled operatives, otherwise known as American spies, providing intelligence and other tactical assistance to Ukraine in its war with Russia.
Sounds like Americans are in this war, like it or not.
The news, based on sourcing from current and former U.S. government officials, is part of a broader report about a “stealthy network” of U.S. and European commandos and spies in “cells” run by the Pentagon’s European Command “to speed allied assistance to Ukrainian troops.” Much of this is operating from military bases in France and Germany and elsewhere. But as the NYT points out, there are European commandos and CIA agents working on the inside.
The commandos are not on the front lines with Ukrainian troops and instead advise from headquarters in other parts of the country or remotely by encrypted communications, according to American and other Western officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational matters. But the signs of their stealthy logistics, training and intelligence support are tangible on the battlefield.
Several lower-level Ukrainian commanders recently expressed appreciation to the United States for intelligence gleaned from satellite imagery, which they can call up on tablet computers provided by the allies. The tablets run a battlefield mapping app that the Ukrainians use to target and attack Russian troops.
As usual it appears that the administration wants to have it both ways: assure the American people that it is being “restrained” and that we are not “at war” with the Russians, but doing everything but planting a U.S. soldier and a flag inside Ukraine. The CIA, as you will recall, has increasingly had an operational combat focus since 9/11, running elaborate secret prisons overseas, engaging in enhanced interrogations (torture) and manhunting with armed drones and commando teams over the last 20 years. There may be a sliver of daylight between the CIA operatives there today and the U.S. special forces that left Ukraine after Russia invaded, but given the circumstances, is it a meaningful one? Is it all about who is pulling the trigger?