What the leaked Pentagon documents reveal - 8 key takeaways (2024)

ByPaul Adams, Jean Mackenzie and Antoinette Radford,BBC News

What the leaked Pentagon documents reveal - 8 key takeaways (1)What the leaked Pentagon documents reveal - 8 key takeaways (2)Reuters

A cache of classified US documents leaked online sheds new light on American intelligence gathered about other countries.

Images of the covert files have appeared on messaging app Discord since early March.

Complete with timelines and dozens of military acronyms, the documents, some marked "top secret", paint a detailed picture of the war in Ukraine and also offer information on China and allies.

Pentagon officials are quoted as saying the documents are real.

BBC News and other news organisations have reviewed the documents and these are some of the key findings.

UN boss 'too accommodating' to Russia

The US believed the UN secretary general's stance on a key grain deal was undermining attempts to hold Russia accountable for the war in Ukraine.

Antonio Guterres was too willing to accommodate Russian interests, according to files which suggest Washington has been closely monitoring him.

Several documents describe private communications involving Mr Guterres and his deputy.

One leaked document focuses on the Black Sea grain deal, brokered by the UN and Turkey in July following fears of a global food crisis.

It suggests that Mr Guterres was so keen to preserve the deal that he was willing to give in to Russia's demands - a stance which was "undermining broader efforts to hold Russia accountable".

Jordan feared Chinese retaliation over Huawei

While the bulk of the leaked documents concern, in one way or another, the war in Ukraine, there are others that touch on a huge range of unrelated issues. Many of them shed light on some of Washington's global preoccupations.

Like the spread and purpose of Chinese technology.

What the leaked Pentagon documents reveal - 8 key takeaways (3)What the leaked Pentagon documents reveal - 8 key takeaways (4)

Three documents based on intelligence from late February detail discussions among senior Jordanian officials over whether or not to shut the Chinese firm Huawei out of its 5G rollout plans.

Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein, in charge of the rollout, is said in the document to be worried about retaliation from China if they keep Huawei out.

Nor is this the only place where fears about Chinese technology are revealed

Another document marked top secret addresses China's "developing cyber-attack capabilities." It says these are designed "to deny, exploit, and hijack satellite links and networks as part of its strategy to control information, which it considers to be a key warfighting domain."

Russian infighting over Ukraine dead

Newly discovered documents suggest Russian officials are at loggerheads over the reporting of casualties.

The main intelligence agency, the FSB, has "accused" the country's defence ministry of playing down the human impact of the war, the files show.

These findings show the extent to which the US agencies have penetrated the Russian intelligence and military.

Western special forces operating inside Ukraine

One document, dated 23 March, refers to the presence of a small number of Western special forces operating inside Ukraine, without specifying their activities or location. The UK has the largest contingent (50), followed by Latvia (17), France (15), the US (14) and the Netherlands (1).

Western governments typically refrain from commenting on such sensitive matters, but this detail is likely to be seized upon by Moscow, which has in recent months argued that it is not just confronting Ukraine, but Nato as well.

Other documents say when a dozen new Ukrainian brigades - being prepared for an offensive that could begin within weeks - will be ready. They list, in great detail, the tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery pieces that are being provided by Ukraine's Western allies.

One map includes a timeline that assesses ground conditions across eastern Ukraine as spring progresses.

US dims hopes for Ukraine offensive

According to the Washington Post newspaper, one document from early February expresses misgivings about Ukraine's chances of success in its forthcoming counteroffensive, saying that problems with generating and sustaining sufficient forces could result in "modest territorial gains".

Ukraine's difficulties in maintaining its vital air defences are also analysed, with warnings from late February that Kyiv might run out of critical missiles.

Casualty figures are also listed. One slide refers to as many as 223,000 Russian soldiers killed or wounded, and as many as 131,000 Ukrainians.

Some Ukrainian officials have dismissed the leaks, suggesting they might constitute a Russian disinformation campaign. But there are signs of frustration and anger too.

One presidential advisor, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted: "We need less contemplation on 'leaks' and more long-range weapons in order to properly end the war."

What the leaked Pentagon documents reveal - 8 key takeaways (5)What the leaked Pentagon documents reveal - 8 key takeaways (6)Getty Images

Egypt secretly planned to supply rockets to Russia

The Washington Post obtained access to another document from mid-February, where they found that Egypt had plans to produce 40,000 rockets for Russia in secret.

The Post said President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi told officials to keep production and shipment secret "to avoid problems with the West".

An official is quoted as saying he would "order his people to work shift work if necessary because it was the least Egypt could do to repay Russia for unspecified help earlier".

It is unclear what the earlier help refers to. In January, Reuters reported that Russia's share of Egyptian wheat imports had risen in 2022, offering one possible explanation.

There is no indication that Egypt - a recipient of US security assistance, worth around $1bn a year - went ahead with the proposed sale to Russia.

An unnamed official quoted on Egyptian news channels described the allegation as "utterly baseless" and said Cairo did not take sides in the war.

The Kremlin called it "just another canard" and the White House said there was "no indication" Egypt was providing lethal weapons to Russia.

South Korea torn on delivering weapons to Ukraine

A classified document, seen by the BBC, reveals that South Korea was torn about selling weapons for use in Ukraine.

The report, based on signals intelligence, details a sensitive conversation between national security advisers.

They are torn between US pressure to send ammunition to Ukraine and their policy not to arm countries at war.

One of the advisers suggests sending the shells to Poland instead, to avoid appearing to have given in to the US.

As part of a resupply deal last year, Seoul insisted that the US could not pass the shells on to Ukraine. Seoul has been reluctant to arm Ukraine, for fear of antagonising Russia.

The leak has triggered security concerns in Seoul, with opposition politicians questioning how the US was able to intercept such a high-level conversation.

China conducted experimental weapons tests

The Post also found that Beijing tested one of its experimental missiles - the DF-27 hypersonic glide vehicle - on 25 February.

The missile flew for 12 minutes over a distance of 2,100km (1,300 miles), according to the documents.

What does the huge leak of Ukraine war documents tell us?
US leak shows S Korea torn on sending Ukraine weapons

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