‘Brave Ukrainians doing dirty work’, ex-Pentagon chief says in prank call
The US should make every effort to arm Ukraine in its conflict against Russia, because the nation is doing the dirty work Washington has shied away from, former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said on Monday. He added that Ukraine has every right to attack Russian military targets, including those located within the country.
Esper, who served as the Pentagon chief in the administration of former President Donald Trump, spoke his mind in a phone call with the Russian pranksters who go by the names of Vovan and Lexus, believing that he was talking to former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko. Several clips of the conversation were uploaded to Russia’s Rutube video platform.
“Brave Ukrainian people are doing the dirty work of what we never wanted to do here in the United States, which is why we should continue to support you with everything we can, whether it’s munitions or arms or intelligence,” he said.
The ex-official recommended that Ukraine conduct more strikes on Russian military warehouses and logistics centers. He also told the pranksters that Kiev had “a sovereign right to conduct strikes on any targets you see fit,” including within Russia, explaining that an adversary with an off-limits “sanctuary” has an advantage.
Esper added, however, that he assumed that Kiev would still stick to a “strategic approach” that would not undermine NATO’s support for the country or make Russians rally around President Vladimir Putin.
In December, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Washington had “neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia.” Last week, however, Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said that the US had “no objections” to Kiev attacking targets in Crimea, the peninsula that overwhelmingly voted to join Russia in 2014 but is still claimed by Ukraine.
Esper is not the first Western official to have been tricked by Vovan and Lexus. In a call earlier this month, former US national security advisor John Bolton stressed the need to “stop efforts by whether it’s the French or the Germans or whoever it might be to try negotiating with the Russians” over Ukraine.
The stunts by the pair have not gone over well with the West. In March 2022, YouTube banned their channel on the platform following indignation from the UK’s Defense Ministry after the pranksters released a call in which British defense chief Ben Wallace disclosed information about arms deliveries to Ukraine.