HANOI (AP) — While the Biden administration sees minimal damage from the disclosure of highly classified documents related to the war in Ukraine and U.S. views of its allies and partners, that assessment will get its first real test when U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets in Japan with counterparts from six of America’s closest foreign friends.
The three days of talks between the Group of Seven foreign ministers, which begin Sunday, may shed light on whether the disclosure has harmed trust between the allies or is only the latest embarrassment for the U.S, which has been grappling with the fallout from leaks of highly sensitive secrets over the past decade.
Blinken said Saturday he had heard no concerns from allies, but the revelations, and the arrest of a relatively low-level suspect in the leaks, will loom over the G-7 meeting, the first major international diplomatic conference since the documents were discovered online and made public.
“We have engaged with our allies and partners since these leaks came out, and we have done so at high levels, and we have made clear our commitment to safeguarding intelligence and our commitment to our security partnerships,” Blinken told reporters in Hanoi before leaving for Japan.
“What I’ve heard so far at least is an appreciation for the steps that we’re taking, and it’s not affected our cooperation,” he said. “I just haven’t seen that, I haven’t heard that. And, of course, the investigation is taking its course.”
That argument may be wishful thinking, especially as the world digests what is being revealed almost daily with new revelations.
Apart from military analyses of Ukraine’s capabilities and Russian losses, the leaked documents also reveal assessments of the defense capabilities of Taiwan and internal arguments in Britain, Egypt, Israel, South Korea and Japan.
“There’s now, as you know, a suspect in custody, but importantly as well, I know, measures being taken to further safeguard information,” Blinken said. “But to date, based on the conversations I’ve had, I have not heard anything that would affect our cooperation with allies and partners.”
Yet the U.S. has had similar problems before, most notably when then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was forced to apologize for numerous embarrassing revelations in leaks of U.S. diplomatic cables by Wikileaks in 2010.
Clinton, in particular, said she had been forced to explain the U.S. position on Argentina, Israel, Italy and other allies in the aftermath of the Wikileaks drop.
On Friday, the man accused in the latest leak, Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, 21, appeared in court as prosecutors unsealed charges and revealed how billing records and interviews with social media comrades helped pinpoint the suspect.
The classified documents Teixeira is alleged to have posted on an online social gaming platform have not been individually authenticated in public by U.S. officials. But they appear authentic in the main.
Those documents range from briefing slides mapping out Ukrainian military positions to assessments of international support for Ukraine and other sensitive topics, including under what circumstances Russian President Vladimir Putin might use nuclear weapons.
Classified documents have strict guidelines on how they must be handled, secured and destroyed. They are required to be kept in secure facilities, protocols Teixeira would have violated if copies were taken to his house.
Regardless of the legal implications for Teixeira and the findings of the internal administration investigation, Blinken and top aides are not likely to escape questioning about the leaks, which are at least the fourth from U.S. sources since 2010.
The 2010 Wikileaks release involved 251,287 State Department cables, written by 271 American embassies and consulates in 180 countries and were dated December 1966 to February 2010. The cables were passed by Assange to his three media partners, plus El País and others, and published in stages from Nov. 28, 2010, with the names of sources removed.
WikiLeaks said it was the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain.