On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the US is providing Ukraine with intelligence to carry out attacks against Russia in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
“We are providing them intelligence to conduct operations in the Donbas, that’s correct,” Austin said in response to a question from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Cotton asked Austin if the US was giving Ukraine intelligence for attacks against Russia in the Donbas and Crimea. In his reply, Austin made no mention of Crimea, which has been under Russia’s control since 2014.
Austin’s comments mark the first time a US official publicly commented on the US’s role in the fighting in the Donbas since Russia shifted its focus to the region and withdrew from areas in the north near Kyiv.
“We continue to provide useful information and intelligence to the Ukrainian Armed Forces in their fight,” a senior Pentagon official told CNN after Austin’s comments. “As that fight migrates more to the Donbas region, we will adjust our information content and flow as required.”
The official said that some of the intelligence the US is providing Ukraine is “near real time.” Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Biden administration modified rules to expand intelligence sharing with Ukraine.
The White House also acknowledged in March that the US has been giving Ukraine intelligence that “includes information the Ukrainians can use to inform and develop their military response to Russia’s invasion.”
The intelligence sharing on top of the billions in weapons the US is pouring into Ukraine raises questions about at what point Russia would consider Washington a co-belligerent in the war.