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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Berlin admits intelligence failure on Ukraine conflict

German spies failed to predict both the start of Russia’s campaign and its development, Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck has said

Unlike other Western security services, the German Foreign Intelligence Service (BND) has repeatedly seriously misjudged the developments in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck told journalist Stephan Lamby in an interview published on Thursday.

German spies first failed to correctly assess the risks of a direct military confrontation breaking out between the two neighbors shortly before the start of the Russian operation in February 2022, Habeck said. US and British intelligence services had already been warning “very strongly” about the threat of a potential conflict at that time, he added.

Read more: Berlin calls for more diplomatic efforts to end Ukraine conflict

“Other services have said: this is an exercise, the worst will not happen,” he said, adding that, eventually, “the worst did happen.” When asked if he meant German intelligence when speaking about “other services,” Habeck, who is also the nation’s economy minister, replied: “yes.”

Lamby said he conducted the interview on June 23. In April, the vice chancellor told the journalist that the BND also made a serious misjudgment immediately after the start of the conflict by maintaining that “in 48 hours, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin would occupy all of Ukraine,” the minister said, noting that this did not come to pass. As a result, Berlin only decided to provide military assistance to Kiev two days after the conflict broke out.

The BND has already repeatedly faced accusations of incompetence amid the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev. In February 2022, the German media reported that the service was so oblivious of the potential threat of conflict that its head, Bruno Kahl, traveled to Kiev shortly before the start of Moscow’s operation.

Read more: US could ‘shift focus’ from Europe to Asia ‘anytime’ – Berlin

The spy chief then failed to evacuate in time with other German diplomats and intelligence operatives, prompting the BND to send a team of agents to pick up their boss. Kahl was eventually brought to Poland in a convoy of vehicles with the conflict already in full swing.

In early July, the German media also reported that the BND had failed to promptly inform the government about a mutiny in Russia that took place in late June. At that time, Chancellor Olaf Scholz told journalists that German spies “didn’t know beforehand” about the Russian private military company Wagner Group’s plans and only “reported what could be observed.”