In theory, a covert operation is supposed to be elegant, sophisticated and smart. But that is not the case with the United States these days. Ham-fisted and clumsy are more apt descriptors.
Yesterday’s simultaneous release of a new account of who destroyed the Nordstream pipeline in the New York Times, Die Zeit and a London paper placing the blame on shadowy pro-Ukrainians was not a coincidence. This was a coordinated information operation and the media reaction to this news is quite telling. The same news outlets that strenuously ignored Sy Hersh’s explosive, detailed revelation that it was a U.S. operation with help from Norway stumbled over themselves to breathlessly report that an unidentified pro-Ukrainian group was the guilty party.
Die Zeit provided the most hilarity with their fantastic tale of six people on a private yacht carrying out the deed. Looks to me like Die Zeit was channeling a Gilligan’s Island episode. We had Ginger and Mary Ann, accompanied by the Professor, the Skipper, Thurston Howell and Gilligan. They set to sea with a 1000 pounds of high explosive and used their snorkel gear to plant the charge. I bet you it was Ginger and Mary Ann who planted the bomb, of course, was built by the crafty Professor.
Take a look at Moon of Alabama’s detailed breakdown of the nonsense (read here).
No. You do not dive down to 80+ meter for an industrial size job, involving the placement of hundreds of pounds of explosives in eight individual charges on very sturdy pipelines, from a sparsely manned boat. Such deep dives require special gases, special breathing equipment, special training, a decompression chamber for emergencies and lots of well trained people to maintain all that stuff.
All three articles neglected to point out that you cannot dive in regular scuba gear to 200 feet in an arctic sea. You need a dry suit (as my friend Mark says, you look like the Stay Puft marshmallow man). That suit requires some specialized support equipment that does not fit on a yacht. This is a desperate, juvenile attempt to shift the blame from the United States. I cannot wait to see what happens when Sy drops a new story on Nordstream.
A competent intelligence service would have prepared a detailed story that was plausible and contained enough details to create doubt in the minds of those who accepted Sy’s account. Instead of releasing the same skimpy story in three different media outlets on the same day, the release should have been spread out over a few days or a week. This bungled attempt to shift the blame to Ukraine is just one more piece of evidence that America does not have a competent intelligence service.
Then there is the silliness about two Ukrainian pilots getting an introduction to the F-16.
The US is working with Ukrainian pilots in the United States to determine how long it would take to train them to fly F-16 fighter jets, three sources briefed on the matter told CNN.
Two Ukrainian pilots are currently at a military base in the US having their skills tested in flight simulators to see how much time they would need to learn to fly various US military aircraft, including F-16s.
A US military official told reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to the Middle East that the Ukrainian pilots were in Tucson, Arizona, for “a familiarization event” that he described as a “routine activity as part of our military-to-military dialogue with Ukraine.”
The answer is pretty simple. If the Ukrainian pilots are already trained to fly a SU-25 jet fighter, they would need at least 70 days to become minimally proficient in the F-16. Taking off and landing is not complicated. The tricky part is learning how to do air-to-air intercepts, air-to-ground attacks and transitioning between the two.
Training two Ukrainian pilots is nothing more than a political gesture with no tactical significance. A fighter squadron, at least in the United States, has 20 aircraft. If the United States and Ukraine are serious about getting F-16s in the air in Ukraine they need to come up with at least 18 more pilots. Oh yeah, almost forgot. Someone has to pony up 20 F-16s and, if the U.S. can provide the planes, someone also has to recruit and train ground crews capable of handling and maintaining each plane. In short, this is not going to happen.
Gone are the days when the United States could stage a Gulf of Tonkin “attack” and convince most of the world that the North Vietnamese did something they did not do. Ukraine is the proverbial tar baby for the Biden Administration and Nuland, Sullivan and Blinken do not have a clue how to get unstuck.