Defence force chief warning over leaked US intelligence reports on Ukraine war
Australia’s chief of defence has sounded the alarm after classified US Defence Department documents about the war in Ukraine surfaced online.
The documents, labelled secret and top secret, first appeared on social media last month and appear to include sensitive information about vulnerabilities with Ukraine’s air defences, China and other US allies.
An investigation into the source of the leak has been opened but Pentagon officials could not say if it had been contained.
In a wide ranging appearance at the Lowy Institute on Tuesday, Angus Campbell said the leak had the potential to be damaging for the US.
“The issue of maintaining the security of information is critical to the development of national capability and to the trust and confidence across allies and partners. I appreciate this, by reports, is a serious leak,” he said.
“I am not, obviously as a military officer, someone who believes all information should be free and I do believe that there is a national interest in the protection of some information.
“This is a potentially damaging release of material and it is something that I would in no way wish to encourage.”
General Campbell’s address to the foreign policy think tank comes ahead the highly anticipated release of the defence strategic review in the coming weeks.
The assessment, completed by former chief Sir Angus Houston and former Labor defence minister Stephen Smith in just six months, was handed to the government in February.
General Campbell would not be drawn on the government’s response to the review, which is expected to provide a pathway for an overhaul of the ADF in the wake of China’s rapid military build up.
But the chief told the think tank the prospect of state on state conflict is “less remote than it was”.
“Military capability within the region, of both range and lethality, is a challenge across all domains – sea, land, air and cyber,” General Campbell said.
“We live in an era and the region of great power, competition, and an era, I think that may last for some time.
“In response the ADF has increased its presence in the Indo Pacific seeking to promote an environment conducive to our national interests.”
General Campbell declined to weigh in on commentary from Emmanuel Macron which suggested a reluctance from the French President to engage in a conflict in the event of Chinese aggression in Asia.
But when asked about Australia’s stake in Taiwan’s freedom, General Campbell invoked playwright Shakespeare.
“I think that anything that undermines the security, stability, and the prospect of the Indo pacific region is of interest to Australia,” he said.
“The question then might arise, what particular circumstance or scenario enlivens what form of interest and in what form or response.
“I encourage all parties to areas of international tension to find other ways to resolve that tension.
“Conflict is sometimes necessary as the absolute last resort, but Shakespeare got it right. When you unleash the dogs of war. You can‘t necessarily be confident to contain the outcome.