In the latest security breach by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), sensitive military documents have reportedly been “found” by a member of the public at a bus stop in Kent.
The documents are broadly divided into two parts: the passage of the Royal Navy’s HMS Defender across the Black Sea with a view to provoking Russia and the UK’s future military presence in Afghanistan following a formal withdrawal scheduled for September.
A member of the public reportedly found 50 pages of classified military information behind a bus stop in Kent last Tuesday morning (June 22).
The person who reportedly “found” the files then passed them onto the state broadcaster the BBC, which has then published excerpts of the classified material.
Most of the papers have an “official sensitive” marking which is considered a relatively low level classification in the British security system.
The documents which are focused on the potential Russian reaction to HMS Defender’s violation of Russia territorial waters off the Crimean coast, clearly demonstrate that the Royal Navy warship’s provocative passage was being constantly monitored by the highest levels of the British government as late as Monday (June 21).
Three potential Russian responses were discussed in the classified papers, from “safe and professional” to “neither safe nor professional”.
Embarrassingly for the government the papers show an “alternative route” was considered which would have kept HMS Defender away from Russian waters and thus avoid a potentially dangerous confrontation.
But the papers acknowledge that this route ran the risk of conveying to Russia that the UK is “scared/running away”, thus allowing the Russians to claim that the UK had “belatedly accepted” Moscow’s “claim to Crimean territorial waters”.
On Afghanistan, one document that is addressed to Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace’s secretary, and marked “Secret UK Eyes Only”, sets out the UK’s military options following the end of Operation Resolute Support, the Nato mission which is expected to conclude in September.
The document discusses an American request for UK military assistance in several specific areas and directly addresses the question of whether any British special forces will remain in Afghanistan post-withdrawal.
While the BBC has not published the UK’s desired option on security grounds, it has nonetheless given a hint as to the UK’s likely ultimate position.
The report cites the “worsening security situation” in Afghanistan to present the following downcast assessment: “Any UK footprint in Afghanistan that persists... is assessed to be vulnerable to targeting by a complex network of actors", before adding that "the option to withdraw completely remains”.