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NYT: CIA network of bases in Ukraine at risk if US does not pass aid

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 26, 2024 2:31 PM 2 min read
A Ukrainian infantryman runs towards the trenches on the front line, in the Kreminna forest, Luhansk Oblast, on Jan. 31, 2024. (Ignacio Marin/Anadolu via Getty Images)
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The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has supported a network of a dozen bases in Ukraine that are "increasingly at risk" if Republicans continue to block $61 billion in funding for Kyiv, the New York Times (NYT) reported on Feb. 25.

The network of bases is the result of a decade of relationship-building between the CIA and Ukraine, according to the NYT, which conducted 200 interviews with current and former intelligence officials in Ukraine, Europe, and the U.S. for the article.

The bases allow the Ukrainian military "to track Russian spy satellites and eavesdrop on conversations between Russian commanders," the NYT said.

"These intelligence networks are more important than ever," now that Russia is intensifying its offensive and Ukraine "more dependent on sabotage and long-range missile strikes that require spies far behind enemy lines."

CIA Director William Burns secretly visited Ukraine on Feb. 22 "to try to reassure Ukrainian leaders," the NYT said, in what was his 10th visit to the country since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

The relationship between Ukrainian and U.S. intelligence began to deepen in 2015, when then-President Petro Poroshenko appointed Valeriy Kondratiuk to head Ukraine's military intelligence agency.

After the EuroMaidan Revolution in 2014, the U.S. initially distrusted Ukrainian officials and worried about "provoking the Kremlin," the NYT said.  

Kondratiuk built relations with the CIA, which in 2016 agreed to help modernize Ukraine's military intelligence agency in exchange for intelligence from Ukraine, the NYT said. A red line was that the CIA would not help Ukrainian intelligence conduct lethal operations.

According to the NYT, Ukraine gradually became "an intelligence-gathering hub that intercepted more Russian communications than the CIA station in Kyiv could initially handle."

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 "only strengthened" the partnership between Ukrainian intelligence and the CIA, as Trump "had put Russia hawks in key positions, including Mike Pompeo as CIA director and John Bolton as national security adviser."

Prior to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the only American officials not evacuated from the country were "a small group of CIA officers" who were relocated to a hotel in western Ukraine. The CIA then returned to Kyiv "within weeks" of Russia's withdrawal from the region in April 2022, the NYT said.

In light of anxieties around the $61 billion package, Ukrainian intelligence agencies are now worried whether the CIA will "abandon" them, as "it happened in Afghanistan before," one senior Ukrainian officer told the NYT.

US Senator Schumer in Lviv: ‘Without aid, Ukraine will lose war, with aid it will win’
Directing his comments to House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senator Richard Blumenthal said that the U.S. must “pay now, or pay later.”

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