A find that looks like it came out of a movie by espionage, but which instead tells a true story that took place in Kent last Tuesday and of which the Bbc it only became known yesterday thanks to a mysterious anonymous source.
History is one that can blow several heads in the British defense. At a bus stop just south of London, an anonymous passer-by found a parcel of 50 pages of the ministry which contained highly confidential information from Her Majesty’s Defense. The anonymous passer-by, however, did not limit himself to observing it from afar and taking it to the police, but apparently opened it and reported everything to the Bbc, uncovering one of the most glaring holes in London’s safety net. That envelope, in fact, contained confidential information on two issues that are of primary importance in the defense of Her Majesty: the mission in the Black Sea – with the incident with the Russians in front of the Crimea – and the withdrawal of British troops fromAfghanistan.
What were these papers doing at a Kent bus stop? And above all because the anonymous passerby preferred to disclose the news to the Bbc? The Ministry of Defense has tried to give some timid answers. According to British media reports, the ministry confirmed that an employee, in recent days, had reported the loss of this envelope containing emails, images and Power Point presentations on the Black Sea, Afghanistan and other topical issues. And that for days an internal investigation had taken place to understand what had happened and to immediately find the file.
But it is clear that the answers could not be much more detailed and may hide even more disturbing truths. If it really was a loss, London would have to admit that it has very distracted officials in key security posts to the extent that it endangers a ship in service in the country. Black Sea and the soldiers still present in Afghanistan. If, on the other hand, it was not a question of loss but an act of sabotage, then London should confess that Russian agents – or diverted services or other foreign agents – are able to get anywhere, even taking a higher-risk mission package to the border with Moscow and also having it published by the Bbc. A total setback. And there are also those who speak of a complex Russian disinformation maneuver to show the world the absolute opacity of the British work on the Black Sea and to publicize the provocation.
Certainly the documents, in any case, do not do the UK a good service. First of all, as mentioned, they would confirm the ability of the Russian services to reach the heart of NATO security. Or worse, they make London admit that they can’t handle secrets. But they are above all documents that reveal that the Defense knew how to provoke a Russian reaction, so much so that the package confirms that the Defender’s mission to go from Odessa to Batumi (“On Ditroite”) had been the subject of extensive discussion. According to the documents, the British have ruled out going on a route far from Crimea precisely to show Moscow that they are not afraid of its reaction and rather want to consolidate relations with Ukraine. In short, the mission was entirely aimed at asserting the right of freedom of navigation in an area that for Moscow is Russia while for NATO it is Ukraine. So much so that there are also those who believe, for this reason, that London somehow wanted to show these documents to the world in order to secure its internal force within NATO and in relations with Kiev.
The problem is that there is more to these documents. In fact, the files do not stop at military operations in the Black Sea, but there are comments from the Defense on arms exports and on how Europe is behaving after Brexit. The minister would show some anxiety about the European Commission’s ability to limit British exports by leveraging the Commission’s weight in the European areas in which London has remained bound by the agreements. Then there are observations on relations between the United Kingdom and the United States, with comments from the new Biden presidency and on what Great Britain should ask for even in the face of the commitment required in the Indo-Pacific. And finally, there is a document marked as “Secret UK Eyes Only” which shows US demands in Afghanistan and the possibility that British special forces remain on the ground. A possibility that with the resurgence of the rebels could soon become a reality. And that the documents have already “unmasked”.
I Russians have they opened Pandora’s box? Did anyone in defense want to warn the minister? A political maneuver by the British military to show that they do not have great anxiety about Russian reactions? Or one of the most interesting cases of espionage in recent years? The answers may never come.