Updated Apr 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Senate GOP wants more intel shared with Ukraine

Senator Rubio sitting on the committee dais
Sen. Marco Rubio sits between Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Richard Burr. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee are unanimously pressing the Biden administration to share more intelligence with Ukraine, not just in the Donbas but also Crimea, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Russia is preparing for a bloody eastern assault. While some Republican senators have previously called for more intelligence sharing, this is the first time every one of them on the committee is making an explicit request.

  • Their demand, in a letter Monday to Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence, comes after the Pentagon acknowledged in public testimony last week that the U.S. is providing the Ukrainians with information for the battle in eastern Ukraine — including the Donbas region.
  • In response to questioning from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said: "We are providing them intelligence to conduct operations in the Donbas, that's correct."
  • But the Republican senators are calling for more — and are explicitly mentioning Crimea, which Russia invaded and annexed in 2014. Crimea hasn't been a scene of fighting to date but Russia has used it to stage regional offensives.

Driving the news: "We remain deeply concerned that not enough is being done to share critical intelligence that would assist the Ukrainians as Russian forces move to secure territory in the southern and eastern parts of the country," wrote Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the top Republican on the committee, alongside his seven other party colleagues.

  • "As we watch Russia turn its focus to southern and eastern Ukraine, we urge you to ensure that our intelligence agencies proactively share intelligence with the Ukrainians to help them protect, defend and retake every inch of Ukraine’s sovereign territory, which includes Crimea and the Donbas."

What they're saying: "If these Senators had simply picked up the phone and called, they would have known this letter was completely unnecessary," a U.S. official told Axios. "The U.S. is providing detailed, timely intelligence to the Ukrainians on a range of fronts."

The big picture: With the war in its seventh week, Russian forces are moving away from Kyiv and towards eastern Ukraine, where analysts expect intense fighting to become even more brutal.

  • Russia has appointed a new commander, Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, who has experience in Syria’s bloody civil war, to lead the effort.
  • Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday the new commander has an “utter disregard” for civilian life.
  • “This could augur in a more protracted and a very bloody next phase of this conflict,” he said.
  • The mayor of Mariupol said more than 10,000 civilians have died since the beginning of the invasion.

Go deeper: On Monday, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer became the first Western head of government to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin and interact with him in person since he launched his invasion.

  • Nehammer came away from the meeting pessimistic.
  • He warned the violence and bloodshed cannot be “underestimated.”

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include comment from a U.S. official.

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