Trump considering cutting back intel sharing with Europe, officials warn

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Donald Trump is considering plans to reduce the sharing of U.S. intelligence with members of NATO, which depends on the U.S. for the type of information that has helped Ukraine fend off Russia, according to foreign officials informed of the plans.

Trump advisers have told allied countries the reduced intel sharing would be part of a broader plan to scale back U.S. support and cooperation with the 32-nation alliance, according to three European officials and a senior NATO official, who were granted anonymity to discuss internal discussions.

The officials said they learned about the proposal to curb intelligence-sharing during discussions with Trump advisers about broader plans to reduce U.S. involvement with NATO. The former president repeatedly questioned and sought to undercut the alliance during his first term in office.

The curtailment of intel could have dire security consequences, especially for Ukraine as it tries to repel the Russian invasion.

“It’s the American intelligence that helped convince a lot of NATO countries that Putin was resolved to invade Ukraine,” one European official said. “Some countries didn’t believe Russia had the capabilities to carry out a successful military campaign.”

Asked for comment, a spokesperson from the Trump campaign did not respond directly, instead referring to a statement on TruthSocial that the former president “will restore peace and rebuild American strength and deterrence on the world stage.”

The curtailment of intelligence under a possible future Trump administration was a topic of discussion at this week’s NATO summit, according to the officials, as well as a senior U.S. official. All of them were provided anonymity to discuss freely their thoughts about a second Trump administration.

Reducing U.S. intelligence sharing could reduce Europe’s ability to withstand a Russian invasion, should President Vladimir Putin decide to expand military operations on the continent beyond Ukraine, the senior U.S. official said.

President Joe Biden expanded the amount of intel the U.S.shares, particularly related to Russia, with foreign allies. The European officials said it is unclear whether the Trump administration is considering returning to the previous level of intel-sharing or cutting back further.

Concerns about Trump’s plans if he wins reelection come as NATO ramps up efforts to gather evidence about suspected acts of sabotage, including arson, linked to Russia across Europe.

“Russia right now, they’re committing actual acts of arson and sabotage and planning assassinations on allied soil all in an effort to undermine support for Ukraine amongst our domestic populations,” the senior NATO official said. “The U.S. has increased intelligence sharing within NATO in order to help support the response to these sabotage campaigns. And that’s having a real impact.”

The U.S. has always shared certain information with its allies to, for example, help them prepare for a potential terror attack or to help the alliance bolster itself against an immediate military threat.

During Trump’s first term, his intelligence officials toed the line, sharing intelligence with its closest security partners, including those in the Five Eyes alliance. It did not go above and beyond what was required or custom.

The Biden administration has taken that responsibility to a new level — devising a strategy to bolster its intelligence collection on Russia and to share that intelligence widely with its allies across the globe. It has shared sensitive intelligence with allies in cables, in diplomatic conversations across the globe, including in Africa, and in briefings between top intelligence leaders and their counterparts.

“Intelligence sharing among NATO members and with Ukraine has been absolutely essential to counter Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine as well as to uncover and thwart other destabilizing Russian activities in Europe and beyond,” said John Brennan, former CIA director. “A cutoff or significant scaling back of U.S. intelligence sharing with NATO allies and partners would have an immediate, profound, and potentially long lasting adverse impact on Western security interests.”

The Biden administration’s increased intelligence-sharing has also been part of a broader strategy to try and counter Russian influence and military might in corners of the globe where the U.S. has traditionally dominated, including countries in Africa.

U.S. intelligence briefed to NATO over the past three years has provided Washington’s partners with vital information about Russia’s movements on the ground in Ukraine, including its military maneuvers and tactical advancements, the U.S. official said. It has also highlighted Moscow’s partnerships with Iran and North Korea and its consistent use of Chinese military technology to aid its military operations.

At a speech at Georgia Tech in 2022, CIA Director Bill Burns said American intelligence was “vital” to the war in Ukraine, adding that the war had offered valuable lessons on “how to develop good intelligence … and deploy it openly and creatively to discredit the false narratives on which adversaries so often thrive.”

While European countries have also established high-level intelligence offices, U.S. intelligence is often more robust, officials said, particularly on certain issues related to Russia. Without detailed information sharing, officials worry European countries will become an even easier target for Russia.

Still, there is certain information the U.S. relies on receiving from its European partners — and if Trump were to hold back intelligence, they, too, would likely retaliate, one recently retired senior U.S. official said.

“Almost as harmful as ceasing cooperation with our European allies is the fact that they’re likely to hold back intelligence from us given Trump’s pretty fast and loose handling of classified information,” one former senior U.S. official said. “There are things our allies know that we don’t that we count on when it comes to certain sources.”

U.S. allies at the NATO conference warned of that danger as well. As one of the European officials said, “Intel sharing is often two-way traffic.”

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