Umair Jalali describes another set of harmful leaks exploding
Discord Leaks – A round of leaks has caused furore in many capitals of the world and no one knows what comes out of this audacious act undertaken by few individuals. The issue was expected to grab global headlines and it did as the leak consisted of hundreds of classified US military documents including recent analyses of Russian-Ukrainian conflict along with documents mentioning American spy operations on its allies. Quite obviously these revelations caused widespread jitters in the security establishments of these countries. These leakages were spread through Discord, an online platform popular with gamers but its tentacles were reported to link it to a small, private group consisting mostly of teenagers. US authorities arrested Jack Teixeira a 21-year old airman reportedly a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. It was reported that for months the young man transcribed and posted hundreds of sensitive documents in a small invitation-only chatroom and this information was largely ignored even by members of the chatroom unless he allegedly started posting pictures of the documents themselves. Though Teixeira did not enter a plea but the two felonies carry a maximum of 15 years in prison.
The trove of leaked documents, some of them apparently pulled from briefings prepared for the country’s top military leaders, revealed details of military advances by China; granular information about Ukraine’s battlefield vulnerabilities in the war with Russia; and foreign countries’ plans to supply Moscow with arms. They also pointed to the breadth of US surveillance, suggesting penetration of private deliberations by leaders of allied countries and the United Nations. A European official said the disclosures did make his government question the ability of the US government to keep secrets secret and whether information shared with Washington could end up online. But it was quite clear that the revelations have lost their bite and no longer cause the shock they once did. Now the growing chant is that everyone spies on everyone and that it is the nature of things.
However, Discord leaks reveal the intentions of major developing countries to evade the intensifying standoff between the United States, Russia and China and, in some cases, exploit that rivalry for their own gain. The documents provide a rare glimpse into how key emerging powers including India, Brazil, Pakistan, and Egypt are balancing their relations between the US and Russia and China. The documents makes it abundantly clear that these countries consider it unviable to take sides on the US-China, US-Russia disputes as it is not clear to them who will end up in a pole position in a decade from now and that is why they are hedging their bets by diversifying their risks. This also implies the effective ending of the American position as the sole superpower though the relevant literature does not spell it in so many words.
The leaks paint an unvarnished view of the conflict in Ukraine designed to help military leaders make well-informed decisions. Some of the information offers a pessimistic view of Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive against Russia while other documents point to gaps in Ukraine’s air defences and potential supply problems. It was also revealed America does not expect the war to conclude anytime soon. Many leaks refer to China’s provision of lethal aid to Russia disguised as civilian merchandise. The leaks also include details of a test conducted by Beijing of one of its advanced experimental missiles — the DF-27 hypersonic glide vehicle — in which the vehicle flew for 12 minutes across 1,300 miles and that it possessed a high probability of penetrating US ballistic missile defense systems. It was also mentioned that China could deploy a high altitude spy drone that travels at least three times the speed of sound. A document in the leaks features satellite imagery showing two WZ-8 rocket-propelled reconnaissance drones at an air base in eastern China, about 350 miles inland from Shanghai. They also contain new details about a Chinese spy balloon, dubbed Killeen-23 that flew over the United States this year. They detail sophisticated surveillance equipment pointing out that were up to four additional Chinese spy balloons.
It must have looked odd if there was nothing about Pakistan in these leaked documents and it did not come as a surprise when references to Pakistan soon cropped up. The leaked documents contain two memos from the Pakistani side cautioning not to distance Pakistan from China for the sake of maintain connection with America. One memo was reportedly from Pakistani minister for foreign affairs Hina Rabbani Khar that argued that it was not possible to keep on to the middle ground between America and China. The memo titled “Pakistan’s Difficult Choices”, it warned that Pakistan should avoid giving the appearance of appeasing the West as efforts to preserve Pakistan’s partnership with America would ultimately hurt the full benefits of the country’s real strategic partnership with China.
Another document mentioned referred to Pakistani PM’s talk about UN vote on the Ukraine conflict anticipating renewed Western pressure to back the UN resolution condemning Russia’s invasion. In the conversation the PM was advised that supporting the measure would signal a shift in Pakistan’s position following its earlier abstention on a similar resolution. It was added that Pakistan has the ability to negotiate trade and energy deals with Russia and backing the resolution could jeopardise those ties. In this connection it is relevant to note that Pakistan was among the 32 countries that abstained from voting every time a US-backed resolution on the Ukrainian conflict was raised in the UN General Assembly. In fact just recently Pakistan placed its first order for buying crude oil from Russia though a high-ranking Pakistani diplomat emphasised that Islamabad had consulted Washington before placing the order and that American administration had no objection to the proposed deal. The Weekender
Umair Jalali teaches in The Royal Colosseum and is an avid sports fan