Washington's latest leak: Prelude to Ukraine disengagement?
The Pentagon seen from an airplane over Washington D.C., the United States, February 19, 2020. /Xinhua
The Pentagon seen from an airplane over Washington D.C., the United States, February 19, 2020. /Xinhua

The Pentagon seen from an airplane over Washington D.C., the United States, February 19, 2020. /Xinhua

Editor's note: Radhika Desai is a professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba in Canada. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Washington admitted last week that a cache of some 100 classified documents circulating on the internet might be authentic and launched a judicial investigation into the leak. Inevitably, rumor mills are in overdrive.   

Was this a single release of documents or did it come from multiple sources in multiple leaks? Has it been confined to the normally feuding fiefdoms of the U.S.'s sprawling national intelligence apparatus or has it also been compromised, as The Washington Post feared that the National Reconnaissance Office is "arguably the most secretive intelligence agency in the government?" Will the Pentagon's tightening of circulation of information cut U.S. allies off from sensitive information?  

For some, the leaks reveal, once again, the shambles that is the U.S. intelligence apparatus, something the U.S.'s ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan had already laid bare spectacularly. For others, the leaks revealed how the U.S. spies on its own avowed allies, something we've known since at least Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations. This time, the victims are South Korea, Israel and, hardly a surprise, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It is truly said that it may dangerous to be the U.S.'s enemy, but it is even more dangerous to be its ally.

These points are well taken but arguably. The key to this leak is that major Western media are portraying it as important and as involving documents that focus chiefly on the Ukraine crisis. Coming as it does on the eve of the much-heralded "spring offensive" by Ukraine, the leak, whether deliberate or inadvertent, will certainly be swept up in Washington's "Spy vs. Spy" game of disinformation in a significant manner.  

The leak could be the result of the divisions in the U.S. establishment about the wisdom of pursing the Ukraine crisis any longer. It could also be implicated in unfolding disagreements within the Western alliance and within the Ukrainian establishment about whether, given that, notwithstanding Western and Ukrainian propaganda, the conflict is unwinnable, it is time to admit that keeping up the effort is unacceptably costly in lives and lucre.   

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the United States, December 8, 2022. /Xinhua
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the United States, December 8, 2022. /Xinhua

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the United States, December 8, 2022. /Xinhua

However, there is one more possibility that the leak is, or will soon become, part of Washington's preparation of an "off-ramp" for a very possible, indeed probable, disengagement from the Ukraine crisis. The U.S. has many reasons for such disengagement. The crisis is, by all available reliable accounts, not a winnable one for Washington and, having used Ukraine and its fighters to do what it could to weaken Russia and failed. It is time for the U.S. to quit. This is not the least reason why stories about U.S. President Joe Biden's administration's dissatisfaction with the Zelenskyy administration and its corruption are circulating. 

The U.S. also faces resource constraints, its ability to finance the crisis is not limitless and many U.S. citizens feel, particularly as the U.S. economy shows no signs of delivering decent growth in real incomes for the vast majority, that the resources being spent on an unwinnable crisis are better spent at home. This feeling can only loom larger as the 2024 election campaign gets into gear with President Biden finally confirming that he "plans" on running again. 

It is even possible that, with the widely reported meetings between Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron, the U.S. might finally be considering the wisdom of imposing such great costs of the conflict and its sanctions on its allies as to drive them away from itself. Above all, it is possible that finally, President Biden is now ready to focus on China; whether in conflict or competition, it remains to be seen.  

Certainly, one major element of the reportage confirms this "off-ramp" possibility of the leaks. The major mouthpieces of the Western, specifically Anglo-American establishment are both proclaiming the importance of the leak and the scale of the U.S. effort on Ukraine's behalf they reveal. According to The Washington Post, the documents "demonstrate how the United States is making assessments about the state of the conflict and where it's headed." For Financial Times, it is the "most significant" since Snowden's, while for the BBC, this leak has "huge" implications.  

The message, in short, is that the U.S. effort on Ukraine's behalf, already great in its public pronouncements, has now even been confirmed as extensive by these "inconvenient" leaks. What greater confirmation might anyone want? If it now gives up, it cannot be blamed for falling short on effort and the blame for the failure can comfortably be placed elsewhere.  

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