Among other outcomes, Washington is reportedly analyzing the hypothetical deaths of Vladimir Zelensky or Vladimir Putin
The Pentagon has gamed out four “wild card” scenarios that could affect the conflict in Ukraine, including the sudden deaths of the presidents of Russia or Ukraine, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing a leaked document.
According to the NYT, the document was compiled by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in February and published on social media in recent weeks, along with a trove of other classified files, most relating to the US’ involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
The four outcomes considered by the DIA are the deaths of either Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky or Russian President Vladimir Putin, the removal of leadership within the Russian Armed Forces, or a Ukrainian strike on the Kremlin.
The DIA reportedly believes that a Ukrainian strike on the Kremlin could lead to “a full-scale military mobilization” in Russia or a threat by Putin to use tactical nuclear weapons.
Alternately, the American planners think that such a brazen escalation by Kiev could force Putin “to negotiate a settlement to the war.”
Pentagon leak exposes NATO special forces in Ukraine
The NYT did not elaborate on which outcome the Pentagon views as most realistic, or on the likelihood – in Washington’s eyes – of a Ukrainian strike on Moscow. The newspaper also declined to spell out the consequences of Zelensky or Putin’s deaths, or a leadership rotation within the Russian military.
Original copies of the document appear to have been scrubbed from the Discord server where they were initially posted, leaving this article the only immediately-available source.
US officials did not confirm whether the document was genuine, but did not dispute its authenticity, the NYT noted. The Pentagon has taken a similar stance on all of the recent Ukraine-related leaks, acknowledging that some of the material is “similar in format” to its intelligence briefings, without issuing a direct confirmation.
Other files in the leak detail the US’ war plans and the number of NATO special forces on the ground in Ukraine, Kiev’s rapidly deteriorating ammunition situation and military readiness, and other “sensitive” material related to Ukraine, China, the Middle East, and terrorism.
Moscow is considering the possibility that the documents could be forgeries, disseminated to the media in order to lull the Kremlin into a false sense of security about Ukraine’s military capabilities. “Because the US is a party in the conflict [in Ukraine] and is essentially waging a hybrid war against us, such tricks to deceive the enemy, meaning Russia, are possible,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told reporters on Wednesday.