Incompetent Western intelligence has left Ukrainian resistance compromised - Patrick Mercer

It was like a particularly twisted episode of Slow Horses. The shenanigans of the Western intelligence agencies over the last couple of weeks has not only been deeply convoluted, but the storyline would easily find a place with Apple TV’s dark comedy about incompetent yet dangerous spies and the world of espionage.

It all started to unravel for the West when the depth of the crisis in Ukraine began to bite. Powerful, battle hardened and better organised Russian forces are beginning to seize significant tranches of ground whilst villages and towns are falling on almost a daily basis. As an ammunition and manpower starved Ukraine fights a tenacious rearguard action, it’s beginning to become obvious that unless NATO does something dramatic, Kiev’s coming to the end of her tether: even the sudden release of financial aid from the US is unlikely to be in time to help.

What would certainly change things, if it could be done swiftly, would be the physical intervention of NATO troops - boots on the ground. They might fight the Russians directly or, less boldly, they could take over border duties opposite Belarus in order to release Ukrainian troops or even provide some sort of ‘peacekeeping force’. But, dress the idea up as much as you like, Russia has made it quite clear that they will attack any such forces and that, of course, must lead to a full scale war.

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It’s more complicated than that, though. Romania and Poland have stated that, should Ukraine collapse, they would ‘reclaim’ the bits of that country that they used to own. The Romanians have even said that they’ll leave NATO to achieve that goal. Now, without getting into a geography lesson, these lands lie well to the west of the Dneiper River with Moscow stating, counter intuitively, that they would welcome such moves.

French President Emmanuel Macron, (right), and Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shake hands during a joint news conference at the Elysee Palace last year. PIC: Kin Cheung - Pool/Getty ImagesFrench President Emmanuel Macron, (right), and Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shake hands during a joint news conference at the Elysee Palace last year. PIC: Kin Cheung - Pool/Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron, (right), and Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shake hands during a joint news conference at the Elysee Palace last year. PIC: Kin Cheung - Pool/Getty Images

All this has made NATO’s job much more difficult. So, when the major Ukrainian fortress of Avdivka fell recently, President Macron of France called an emergency meeting of interested parties ostensibly to focus on more individual European nations signing security agreements with Kiev. Such treaties were window dressing: it was Mr Macron’s statement during a press conference that really focussed minds.

Without making it brutally obvious that Ukraine’s situation was dire, he suggested that it was time for French and other troops to get directly involved in Ukraine. That whipped the media into a frenzy with France’s prime minister trying to explain what his president really meant was that their troops might intervene in a humanitarian role. But, oh no, the President squashed that by saying that France’s sons might be used to shield key targets such as nuclear powered plants and strategic bridges with their bodies in order to test Moscow’s resolve.

Then he added that Paris’s special forces might be deployed deep behind Russian lines. Nobody asked French soldiers what they thought of the idea, but a whole slew of NATO countries, including the US, very quickly distanced themselves from Mr Macron’s neo-Napoleonic utterances.

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To add to the embarrassment, when Mr Scholtz of Germany was asked why he wouldn’t provide long range Taurus missiles to Ukraine, he said that to do so required expert German troops to fire the things from Ukrainian soil.

Then he put the cat amongst the pigeons by saying that Britain and France already had their soldiers in Ukraine firing Storm Shadow cruise missiles at Russian targets, but he wasn’t prepared to do the same.

There was such a rumpus that the Tories’ favourite blowhard, Tobias Ellwood, was wheeled out to bluster about gross breaches of sensitive intelligence or some such guff, but there was still life in the story. A day or so later, a tapped conversation of German air force officers was leaked to the Russian media. In it several Luftwaffe braves were discussing the number of missiles they would have to use to destroy Russia’s Crimean bridge - and this wasn’t schnapps fuelled braggadocio in the mess, it was a formal meeting.

Some suggested that this was a scam made in Moscow, but no, Germany had been caught in an act of such obvious duplicity that Bonn has ordered a formal inquiry. The leak very swiftly followed Mr Scholtz’s intelligence compromise before being presented to the world by one of Russia’s most respected journalists and that caused some horrid cynics to hint that the tape had been passed from London straight to Moscow in a perfidious act of revenge. Perish the thought.

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Following all this, one of the US’s most senior and sinister political operators has resigned, just as her dark arts are needed most. Victoria Nuland - mark her name well - has been central to US/Ukrainian matters for decades.

Since 2022 little has happened in Ukraine without her direct, bellicose and neo-conservative influence on the White House and she was Antony Blinken - the US Secretary of State’s - right hand woman.

Patrick Mercer is a former MP for Newark and Army colonel.

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