The US investigates who leaked Pentagon files on the internet 1:59
(WABNEWS) — A collection of leaked classified Pentagon documents highlight US concerns about the growing influence of China and Russia in Latin America and Africa. Among the details are references to the Wagner group of Russian mercenaries considering accepting a contract to fight criminal gangs in Haiti, and a Chinese company negotiating the construction of a deep-water port in Nicaragua.
Meanwhile, a US military document outlines an extensive propaganda scheme by Russian intelligence to shape public opinion in Africa, including spreading conspiracy theories about US biolabs with the goal of “realigning” countries. Africans with Russia.RELATED
Another document mentions Russian support for a Brazilian effort to establish a group of “supposedly impartial” countries to negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine.
The documents shed new light on the global fight between the United States and its adversaries to win over public opinion in the developing world, a fight that has accelerated since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The documents—many of which appear to have been produced by the intelligence arm of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon’s top uniformed leadership—were posted on social media platform Discord more than a month ago and have taken to the Pentagon and the Department of Justice to open investigations. It is not clear who is behind the leak.
Senior Biden administration officials have raised concerns about Russian and Chinese influence in Africa and elsewhere, which may take the form of arms sales, infrastructure projects or media campaigns.
On a March trip to Africa aimed at boosting US support for the continent in the face of Chinese and Russian influence, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the Wagner Group of fueling violence and unrest in Africa.
“Where Wagner has been around, bad things inevitably happen,” Blinken said on a visit to the West African country of Niger.
What mission does the Wagner military group have in Ukraine? 3:23 Eliminating Western influence
Russia has longstanding military and security relations with some African countries dating back to Soviet times, said Mvemba Phezo Dizolele, director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But Russian proxies like the Wagner group have made an effort in recent years to fill security gaps in war-torn countries like the Central African Republic (CAR), Dizolele said.
“This is happening in the context of Russia trying to carve out its own sphere of influence in Africa,” he told WABNEWS.
Although many Americans may not have heard of the Central African Republic, a landlocked country of some 5.5 million people, it is one of many poor or developing countries where Russia or China have tried to undermine the influence West in recent years.
Is the US at risk with its strategic partners after the leak? 2:46
Another of the leaked documents indicates that a Wagner Group employee named Vitaliy Perfilyev proposed to officials in the Central African Republic an anti-American media campaign to counter a US plan to expel Wagner from that country. A 2019 WABNEWSTA investigation found that Russia’s drive to be influential in the Central African Republic is financed by a Wagner-controlled investment fund, which provides money for propaganda efforts and trains army recruits.
The United States has concerns about the role of the Wagner Group elsewhere in the documents.
In late February, associates of the Wagner group planned to “discreetly travel to Haiti” to assess possible contracts with the Haitian government to combat criminal gangs that have paralyzed the Caribbean country, says one of the US intelligence assessments.
The geopolitical consequences of Russia’s attack on Ukraine are another common thread running through the leaked documents.
Nicaragua still sees Russia as its “main security partner” but has “expanded its defense ties” with China since the Ukraine war, read another leaked US document.
China “has no stated aspirations” for military access to Nicaragua, but the Nicaraguan government “would probably consider offering” naval access to Beijing in exchange for Chinese economic investments, the document says.