Who Saw the Ukraine Invasion Coming, and Who Didn’t

Now that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a fact, it is worthwhile to note who saw it coming, and who didn’t. Sarah Palin is one of those who did, famously predicting in 2008 that if Barack Obama was elected president, Putin may feel emboldened to invade Ukraine. The reaction was a little delayed, but still, the prescience is impressive. Mitt Romney sort of saw it coming; at least he had the wit, notwithstanding ridicule from Obama and other liberals, to recognize that Russia is a foe, not a friend. Tom Clancy definitely saw it coming: his last book was about a Russian invasion of Crimea.

Among those who didn’t see the invasion coming, we can place the Obama administration and, apparently, the entire U.S. foreign policy apparatus. No surprise, there; when have they ever anticipated any momentous event? Time magazine was spectacularly wrong about Ukraine. Check out this headline (h/t Jim Geraghty) dated just one week ago today:


But this is the one I really want to comment on: as far as we can tell, the U.S. intelligence community was caught flat-footed by Russia’s invasion. There has been no indication that the intelligence agencies gave the administration any warning of the attack. Given that they also failed to foresee the collapse of the Soviet Union, we probably shouldn’t be surprised. But isn’t the NSA supposed to be scooping up millions of emails and phone conversations from around the world? Haven’t we been told that they have spied on foreign leaders like Angela Merkel? If we are going to have an agency with carte blanche to gather international phone and internet data, is it too much to expect that in analyzing that data, they prioritize Russia? Or should we infer that the NSA’s spying techniques, impressive as they may be from a technical standpoint, generate no useful intelligence at all?