Alexander Vindman Blasts Reports U.S. Helped Ukraine Sink Russia's Moskva

The U.S. should not take credit for the sinking of the Russian Black Sea fleet flagship Moskva, which delivered a serious blow to Vladimir Putin's forces, former Army Lieutenant General Alexander Vindman has said.

Ukrainian-born Vindman, who was director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council until 2020, criticized reports that U.S. targeting data helped Kyiv's forces sink the vessel and said that it was Ukraine, not the U.S., that is "winning this war."

U.S. administration officials have not publicly confirmed American intelligence helped Ukraine to hit the missile cruiser on April 13, before it sunk the next day. But unnamed American officials told NBC News that Ukraine had asked the U.S. about a ship sailing to the south of Odesa.

Moskva
This picture taken in 2008 shows the Moskva, the missile cruiser flagship of Russian Black Sea Fleet, entering Sevastopol Bay. U.S. reports say that the ship was sunk by Ukraine with American help. Getty Images

After the U.S. reportedly helped confirm the location of the missile cruiser, Ukraine struck it with two Neptune anti-ship missiles, NBC reported.

However, Vindman tweeted a New York Times report on the U.S. intelligence help, calling it, "Another misleading, irresponsible, & dangerous, click-bait title.

"We like to pat ourselves on the back & give ourselves too much credit. We're a sideshow," he said, adding that Ukraine is "winning this war with the US & NATO providing a little support."

In a follow up tweet, Vindman linked to a Twitter thread by journalist and author Michael Weiss, who noted that the NBC report said that the U.S. "did not know in advance" Ukraine was going to target the Moskva and was not involved in the decision to strike.

In the thread, Weiss criticized the media's "slight infantilization of the Ukrainians" and said that some are "still incapable of seeing how they can fight a war or run ops without a paint-by-numbers, big-boy assist from the West."

The report that the vessel was sunk with American help will add to the debate over how the U.S. can assist Kyiv's forces without provoking Putin.

It comes after the U.S. approved $33 billion in military aid to Ukraine. However, in related news, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby denied reports that the U.S. was providing information about the locations of senior Russian generals on the battlefield for Ukrainian forces to target.

In a statement to Newsweek, Kirby also said that the U.S. had not known the Ukrainians were targeting the Moskva.

"We did not provide Ukraine with specific targeting information for the Moskva," Kirby said in the statement, adding that the U.S. was "not involved in the Ukrainians' decision to strike the ship or in the operation they carried out.

"We had no prior knowledge of Ukraine's intent to target the ship," the statement said. "The Ukrainians have their own intelligence capabilities to track and target Russian naval vessels, as they did in this case."

The Moskva is the largest Russian warship to be sunk in combat since World War II and its loss provided a significant public relations coup for Ukraine. Russia has denied Ukrainian missiles caused the vessel's demise, saying an onboard fire caused a munitions explosion which led to its sinking.

Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington County, Virginia told the War on the Rocks podcast in April that the sinking of the vessel removed a significant part of the Russian Black Sea fleet's offensive firepower.

However, he said it was an aging Soviet-era vessel that needed to be modernized and that "operationally, it changes little to nothing in this overall conflict."

Newsweek has contacted the Ukrainian defense ministry for comment.

Update 5/6/22 9:26 a.m. This article has been updated with comment from Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby.