Because of political climates in the region and resources spread thin elsewhere, it is unlikely that the U.S. had any meaningful on-the-ground intelligence in Ukraine prior to Russia's annexation of Crimea according to ex-Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who also agrees that an increased physical presence there might be a positive.
The former Michigan Republican congressman, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told J.D. Hayworth and political analyst Dick Morris on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV that most of our intelligence capabilities in Eastern Europe are likely limited.
"My estimation is that when this all started unfolding a few months ago, we had very, very limited intelligence capabilities both in Russia and in Ukraine," Hoekstra said. "We wouldn't have a lot of intelligence capabilities in Ukraine because we saw them as a friend and we'd scale back on what we call Russia House a long time ago. CIA, they've got priorities and at this time or a few months ago Russia was not a priority.
"So we were dedicating resources to Northern Africa, to Central Africa, to the Middle East, Afghanistan with limited resources. Probably the only capabilities we had in Russia were electronic surveillance, satellite surveillance, but the most important ingredient that you want to really get a feel for what's going on in real time are human assets and we probably don't have a lot either in Russia or Ukraine."
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Hoekstra said that the shortage of human intelligence resources in the region is not necessarily a reflection of Obama administration policy and is not, in fact, our lowest ebb in recent years.
"We probably reached the lowest point during the Clinton administration," Hoekstra said.
"This was after the Deutsch Doctrine and a whole bunch of things but we really scaled back on human intelligence. Human intelligence is risky, it sets you up for spectacular failure if some of your assets are uncovered, so during the Clinton administration we really scaled back on human intelligence, relying more on satellites and electronic surveillance.
Under the Bush administration, we scaled up human intelligence but it takes a long time. And under the Obama administration, I don't think we would have seen a continuing increase in human assets but I also don't think this administration has scaled it back down."
According to Morris, where the Obama administration has failed is not in a shortage of human intelligence assets but in honoring the 1994 treaty signed by the U.S. with Ukraine, Russia and Great Britain guaranteeing protection of Ukraine's borders.
"We said that in return for your giving up your nuclear arsenal that they'd inherited from the Soviet Union and much of your conventional weapon capability, " Morris said, "we will internationally guarantee you against aggression basically from Russia and now there is the most wonton of aggression."
Morris believes that rather than positioning troops in the Baltic states, the U.S. should send a significant number to Ukraine, if for no other reason than a show of unity against further Russian hostilities.
"The United States should send troops to the Ukraine, not 150, more like 10 or 20,000 of them from Germany," Morris said. "We know from experience that if there are large numbers of American troops, the Russians will not attack. Either the United States should honor its treaty commitment and stop Hitler/Putin before he aggresses on other countries like the Baltic countries, Poland, Moldova, and Azerbaijan. We know the way you have to deal with dictators. We learned it in Munich; let's incorporate that lesson."
Hoekstra agreed with that sentiment.
"That might be a palatable point of view," Hoekstra said, "if you put them around Kiev and basically send out the signal [to Russia] that says, 'You've got Crimea, you're maybe going to take a little bit more of Eastern Ukraine, but that's it. No more.' "The president is trying to draw a line right now but putting troops into Poland, by putting them into the Baltic countries and saying, no further than this. But at this point he's basically conceding all of Ukraine to Russia."
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