By: Warren Gray

Copyright © 2022

“I don’t think they play at all fairly. They don’t seem to have any

  rules in particular; at least, if there are, nobody attends to them.”

— Lewis Carroll, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” 1865.

“He’s used to life in the fast lane, travels all over the world,

already risks his life racing at over 300 kilometers per hour,

and seems to be handy with a gun.”

— “Mata Hari” (Margaretha Zelle), Dutch spy and

double agent, executed by the French in 1917.

“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle

wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but perhaps

there is the key. That key is Russian national interest.”

— Prime Minister Winston Churchill, 1939.

“Of course it’s a violation of international law;

that’s why it’s a covert action!”

— Vice President Al Gore, 1993.

On Saturday, June 25, 2022, The New York Times (NYT) officially blew the lid off of the CIA’s covert involvement in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, with their stunning article entitled “Commando Network Coordinates Flow of Weapons in Ukraine, Officials Say.” The NYT specifically stated that, “Ukraine…depends more than ever on help from the United States and its allies, including a stealthy network of commandos and spies rushing to provide weapons, intelligence, and training…even as the Biden administration has declared it will not deploy American troops to Ukraine, some CIA personnel have continued to operate in the country secretly, mostly in the capital, Kyiv, directing much of the vast amounts of intelligence the United States is sharing with Ukrainian forces.

“At the same time, a few dozen commandos from other NATO countries, including Britain, France, Canada, and Lithuania, also have been working inside Ukraine… training and advising Ukrainian troops, and providing an on-the-ground conduit for weapons and other aid…the (U.S.) Army’s 10th Special Forces Group…quietly established a coalition planning cell in Germany to coordinate military assistance to Ukrainian commandos and other Ukrainian troops. The cell has now grown to 20 nations…(and) helped manage the flow of weapons and equipment in Ukraine…to speed allied assistance to Ukrainian troops.

“The commandos are not on the front lines with Ukrainian troops (don’t bet on that! – WG), and instead advise from headquarters in other parts of the country or remotely by encrypted communications…(with) satellite imagery, which they can call up on tablet computers provided by the allies. The tablets run a battlefield mapping app that the Ukrainians use to target and attack Russian troops…a group of Ukrainian special operations forces had American-flag patches on their gear, and were equipped with new, portable, surface-to-air missiles, as well as Belgian and American assault rifles…The CIA officers operating in Ukraine have focused on directing the intelligence that the U.S. government has been providing the Ukrainian government. Most of their work has been in Kyiv.

“At Ramstein Air Base in Germany…a U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard team (with about five to eight members) called ‘Grey Wolf’ provides support, including on tactics and techniques, to the Ukrainian air force…The modern (CIA) special operations teams mainly focused on training in small-unit tactics, but also worked on communications, battlefield medicine, reconnaissance, and other skills requested by Ukrainian forces… The American teams were sometimes called Jedburghs, a reference to a World War II effort to train partisans behind enemy lines.”

Kyle Anzalone of Global Research duly noted the next day that, “The report from the NYT is the first admission that Americans are on the ground in Ukraine. President Joe Biden has pledged not to deploy American forces to Ukraine…Previous reporting from The New York Times and CNN said the White House had incomplete intelligence about the war because of a lack of personnel in Ukraine…The presence of CIA officers and commandos in Ukraine appears to contradict (these) previous stories…that the U.S. intelligence community had ‘blind spots’ in Ukraine.”

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos of the conservative Quincy Institute observed that, “CIA ops, commandos in Ukraine: Can we just admit we are fighting this war?…while Biden has insisted on ‘no U.S. boots on the ground’ in Ukraine, there are soft-soled operatives, otherwise known as American spies, providing  intelligence and other tactical assistance to Ukraine in its war with Russia…European commandos and CIA agents working on the inside…the (Biden) administration wants to have it both ways: assure the American people that it is being ‘restrained’ and that we are not ‘at war’ with the Russians, but doing everything but planting a U.S. soldier and a flag inside Ukraine. The Russians may not see the distinction and consider this news as further evidence that their war is more with Washington and NATO than with Ukraine.

“Perhaps two percent of Congress through the House and Senate intelligence committees is aware the CIA is operating in Kyiv…we aren’t supposed to be in a war, right?” Meanwhile, Jack Murphy, a journalist and Iraq/Afghanistan veteran, tweeted that, “The spigot from Congress is fully open. Money, weps (weapons), intel, whatever they need. The American public is not being appropriately informed about what our government is up to as basically every single op DOD/CIA proposes is getting the green light.”

Ekaterina Blinova of Sputnik International wrote that, “‘The New York Times report is correct in every detail,’ says Philip Giraldi, a former CIA station chief and military intelligence officer…‘there are cadres of special operations soldiers and intelligence personnel operating primarily in western Ukraine. They are not in uniform, and many of them are working under various cover designations…which means that Biden and other Western leaders are lying about their active participation in the conflict.’”

Larry Johnson, a veteran of the CIA and the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism, bluntly stated that, “The CIA hasn’t won a single insurgent war in the last 40 years, except going back to supporting the mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan (Operation Cyclone.) They’re hoping to try to recreate that miracle…we’re doing everything we can do to help the Ukrainians; we’ve provided special forces, special operations forces, we’ve brought them into other countries, we’re sending our own people there, the CIA and their passive intelligence, so they can target Russian positions. But…continuing to put U.S. personnel, whether they’re CIA or military, inside Ukraine to train, is becoming too risky.”

Johnson further added that, “This totally destroys any claim that the United States intelligence community does not know what is the true status and operational capability of the Ukrainian Army…U.S. (military) special forces and special operations forces supposedly are not operating in Ukraine. We have left that dirty, dangerous work to commandos from Britain, France, Canada, and Lithuania…the United States is not going to put any of our (military) troops into harm’s way. That is, for now, the Biden Administration’s policy. Putting ‘modern special operations teams’ on the ground to train Ukrainians is, per the NY Times piece, too great a risk and carries a price that is not worth the outcome.”

In my Gunpowder Magazine article on “Operation Cyclone II: Saving Ukraine,” published on April 13, 2022, nearly two and half months before the NYT revelations, I predicted that, “Our government needs to use the CIA’s paramilitary Special Operations Group (SOG) for its intended purpose of covert action…to lead by example, publicly and actively support Ukraine in every way possible…We should immediately…flood Ukraine with weapons and military hardware from the United States, NATO countries, and all friendly allies…Stopping the mighty Russian Army has been successfully accomplished before, using covert action in Operation Cyclone (1979 to 1992, in Afghanistan). This was an incredibly vital lesson in recent history that we should learn from, and repeat. But the time for action is NOW.

“On the ground, we should have small, roving teams of CIA/SOG paramilitary officers advising and assisting Ukrainian forces. The agency has at least 100 to 150 of these highly-skilled men at any given time, all of whom possess at least eight years of former, military experience, plus a bachelor’s degree, as a bare minimum, so these are mostly former, military officers, or ex-enlisted men with college degrees, who are now officially U.S. government civilians, but with the very latest in military weapons, uniforms, and equipment. Most of these SOG operators have prior experience with U.S. Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, Delta Force, Army Rangers, or Marine Corps special operations, and they are no longer constrained by military rules and regulations.

“One can readily envision them roving the Ukrainian countryside in Polaris Defense MRZR Alpha 2 or Alpha 4 turbodiesel, all-terrain vehicles, already used by U.S. Special Forces and equipped with sophisticated, secure radios, satellite phones, GPS units, tablet computers, night-vision gear, and the same types of weaponry employed by Delta Force or SEAL Team Six…At least a half-dozen of them are sure to be skilled in the Ukrainian language, and many Ukrainian military men also speak passable English.”

My subsequent, Gunpowder Magazine article on “Protecting the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv,” published on June 3, 2022, three weeks before the NYT article blew the CIA’s cover in Ukraine, noted that the U.S. Embassy was supposedly closed and totally “evacuated” from February 12, 2022, a week and a half prior to the Russian invasion, no longer guarded by U.S. Marines (no military ‘boots on the ground,’ remember?) but by armed (with Colt Mk. 18 carbines and Glock-17M pistols as a minimum) Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agents instead until it formally reopened on May 18, 2022.

I assessed that the embassy probably still had “a small, key staff of CIA intelligence analysts, perhaps a few National Security Agency (NSA) signals-intelligence experts and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) satellite-imagery experts (and possibly from the National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO), and a handful of CIA SOG paramilitary field operatives…A medical staff of one or two doctors and nurses would also be essential in case of any war-related injuries to embassy personnel…We know for certain that sensitive, U.S. intelligence information passed on to the Ukrainian armed forces has resulted in the combat deaths of 12 to 15 Russian generals (by sniper attacks, artillery, or Switchblade 300 kamikaze drones), so some type of on-scene intelligence staff seems quite necessary.

“The roving SOG operatives, likely armed with HK416A5 carbines and Glock-19 pistols, would require some type of light, nimble, ground transportation for reconnaissance patrols around the bombed-out city during the Russian assaults. The Polaris Defense MRZR Alpha 2 or Alpha 4 turbodiesel, all-terrain vehicle, as favored by U.S. Special Forces, would be perfect in this role, and the Ukrainian e-bike company Eleek makes very light (only 140 pounds), nearly-silent, olive-green, Eleek Atom Military electric (55 mph) dirt bike motorcycles ($5,220 each) for battlefield usage (see, already in Ukrainian Army service.”

Now that The New York Times has suddenly revealed all of these CIA activities to be true, let’s examine what the CIA SOG paramilitary teams of approximately two to 10 men look like along with their weapons, vehicles, personal equipment, and tactical air support.

Today, SOG paramilitary officers have been seen and photographed while wearing civilian clothing, such as blue jeans or khaki pants, going into combat scenarios, but they are normally attired in camouflaged uniforms. Most recently, SOG operatives have been wearing the same Crye Precision MultiCam uniforms as Delta Force, SEAL Team Six and the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC.) Footwear includes a wide variety of rugged, commercial, brown hiking boots from several different manufacturers, although Delta Force and AFSOC definitely prefer the Merrell Moab-2 series in earth-brown.

One very revealing photograph taken in Afghanistan sometime before July 2018 clearly depicts the basic, combat gear of a SOG operative at that time, showing a desert-camo uniform, olive green, Marine Corps T-shirt, neck scarf, thick socks, tactical gloves, body armor, shoulder-and-chest rig with four ammunition pouches and associated-gear pouches, Ops-Core FAST MT Special Operations Forces ballistic helmet, PVS-15 night-vision goggles, PRC-148 Multi-Band, Inter/Intra-Team Radio (MBITR) with antenna and earpieces, Thuraya satellite phone, a Garmin GPS receiver, tactical wristwatch, SureFire lithium-powered flashlight, cell phone, first-aid kit, gun oil, and strobe light. When not wearing the helmet, a baseball cap is the preferred headgear, usually in camouflage colors. Black fleece jackets are often worn on nighttime operations in cool weather.

CIA SOG equipment in Afghanistan.

The weapons shown were a Colt M4A1 carbine with Mk. 18 CQBR (close-quarters battle receiver) and 10.3-inch barrel, EOTech holographic, red-dot sight, PEQ-2 laser-aiming device, SureFire M500 high-intensity flashlight, and Knight’s Armament M4QDSS suppressor ($1,600) attached. There was a separate M4A1 upper receiver, 14.5-inch barrel (but no suppressor), and Trijicon ACOG (advanced combat optical gunsight) with an M203 grenade launcher secured below, and ammo pouches capable of holding a dozen 30-round magazines and five rounds of 40mm grenade ammunition.

Additionally, there was an AKMS folding-stock Russian carbine for plausible deniability, a Glock-19 pistol with two spare magazines, two M67 hand grenades, and a Duane Dieter CQD (close-quarters defense) folding, double-edged dagger with 3.75-inch blade ($375.) In order to blend in with the Ukrainian armed forces, it might be preferable to carry  a folding-stock AKS-74M or AKS-74U carbine instead, and the new, Ukrainian-made Fort-230 submachine gun – an H&K MP7A1 copy in 9x19mm, less than 16 inches long overall, which makes an excellent backup weapon during high-intensity, combat situations.

Another superb handgun choice would be the HK45CT (compact tactical) in .45 ACP, currently favored by Navy SEAL teams as a suppressed weapon (the Mk. 24 Mod. 0 Combat Assault Pistol), described by Darryl Bolke of Tactical Life magazine on September 1, 2011, as “compact, yet powerful, .45 ACP powerhouse…a covert operator’s dream gun…They run very well with high-performance, +P .45 loads…capable of match-grade accuracy right out of the box…with one of America’s most-elite, special operations units (DEVGRU)…one of the best .45 ACP pistols of our time.”

Updating this list to include the very latest items: a Crye Precision MultiCam uniform is currently more likely, an HK416A5 carbine with 11-inch barrel (instead of the M4A1), Steiner PVS-21 NVGs, and possibly the Harris PRC-152A Falcon III Multi-band Handheld Radio. Because fighting the heavily-armed Russians in Ukraine is very, very serious business, even in a purely advisory role, it might be advisable to upgrade to the much-harder-hitting HK417A2 battle carbine (as used by the British SAS commandos, German KSK Special Forces, and 20 more countries) in 7.62x51mm, with 13-inch barrel instead. Otherwise, the photographed equipment loadout remains quite accurate. SOG operatives may select almost any weapon they desire for a particular mission, although they usually come from the existing CIA armory inventory.

In the search for an ultra-modern, lightweight, extremely-accurate, sniper rifle for CIA SOG teams, the brand new (January 2022), bolt-action Bergara Premier MG Lite rifle in 6.5mm Creedmoor is certainly an absolutely superb choice. Not only is it already conveniently chambered for the USSOCOM’s latest official cartridge for sniper rifles, but it is offered only in military flat dark earth finish with a fully-adjustable trigger, a military-style folding carbon-fiber stock, and a threaded, carbon-wrapped 22-inch barrel for fitting a suppressor, almost as if it was specifically designed as a military sniper rifle. It weighs a mere 6.7 pounds overall (much lighter than any other sniper weapon) and is simple, rugged, reliable, and tremendously accurate, averaging .48 to .65 minute-of-angle (MOA) shots, and Bergara guarantees accuracy of 1.0 MOA or less with standard factory loads, such as the Hornady Precision Hunter series. All of this advanced 21st-century technology comes with a very modest price tag of only $3,299, which is $1,200 (27 percent) less expensive than the existing FN Mk. 20 sniper rifle, only one-sixth of the price of the Remington M2010 ESR ($19,718) rifle, or one-fifth of the price of the Barrett Mk. 22 ASR ($16,770) rifle.

Other SOG weapons seen in various photographs from combat zones include the full-length FN M249 Minimi light machine gun in 5.56mm, the Russian PKM medium machine gun in 7.62x54Rmm, and the Barrett M82A1 long-range sniper rifle in .50 BMG. For concealment purposes, the Smith and Wesson M&P9 Shield or Shield Plus is a favorite, striker-fired, subcompact pistol ($374) with a 3.1-inch barrel.

Blade Brothers (BB) Vendetta tactical dagger, from Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photo credit: Blade Brothers Knives.

SOG operatives carry a wide variety of knives, usually privately purchased and owned, into action. The most common are Leatherman multi-tools and Swiss Army Knives, used strictly as tools. For full-sized fighting knives, which are rarely seen among SOG operatives in this particular combat zone, Blade Brothers (BB) Knives of Kharkiv, Ukraine manufactures an excellent, double-edged, black tactical dagger – the Vendetta with a 5.63-inch blade for a very affordable $89.

CIA SOG officers are technically civilians, no longer in the Armed Forces, so their choices of vehicles during combat operations are mostly limited to four-wheel drive civilian vehicles. Rugged Toyota Hilux, Tacoma pickup trucks, and Land Cruiser SUVs are especially popular, as are non-standard tactical vehicles, often armed with a Russian DShK heavy machine gun in the back. Small, nimble all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are also used quite often, and one of the very latest fast-attack vehicles employed by U.S. special operations forces is the Polaris Defense MRZR Alpha 4 turbodiesel, available in either desert tan or military green (perfect for duty in Ukraine.) Also, for a mere $677, its 118-horsepower engine can easily be upgraded with 15-percent more power and about five miles per hour greater speed with a DynoJet Power Vision 3 flash tune and an aptly named, Agency Power cold-air induction kit.

The sturdy MRZR Alpha 4 is extremely nimble, versatile, and lightweight; can be equipped with a vast variety of radios, GPS receivers, tablet computers, and blackout infrared headlights; and it can rapidly be slung beneath a helicopter for swift transportation elsewhere. There’s a swiveling pintle mount on the passenger side for attaching a medium machine gun, such as the FN M240B/H/L or FN Minimi 7.62 MK3 with 16.6-inch barrel and suppressor.

Polaris Defense MRZR Alpha 4 vehicle with suppressed M240B machine gun. Photo credit: Polaris Defense.

Moving on to possible air support for these CIA SOG teams, the overhead presence of an RQ-180A “White Bat” stealth reconnaissance aircraft, forward deployed to Germany, Italy, or Poland, would be highly desirable for acquiring fleeting battlefield imagery from an altitude of 60,000 feet. It can fly at least 1,200 nautical miles to a given target area and loiter there for 24 hours, using a modified, upgraded FLIR sensor and synthetic-aperture radar to maintain constant, overhead surveillance. It can also downlink its imagery directly to the CIA intelligence cell inside the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

It would also be highly desirable to have at least a pair of plausibly deniable helicopter gunships to provide direct, close air support to SOG teams who are advising and assisting Ukrainian troops at the front lines of battle. The best choice for these SOG air branch aircraft would be the combat-proven (in Iraq and Yemen) Bell 407GT, in active service with the United Arab Emirates’ Air Force (as the NorthStar Aviation 407MRH Lightning) and Iraqi Army Aviation (as the IA-407GX.)

The U.S. military does not officially fly them, but the U.S. Army’s ultra-secret Aviation Technology Office (ATO) special operations aviation regiment at Fort Eustis, Virginia, currently operates five unarmed Bell 407GXs, already conveniently painted in a semi-matte, dark gunship gray hue. NorthStar Aviation (NSA) of Melbourne, Florida has eight more Bell 407GXP (slightly more powerful) darkgray examples on hand, at least one or two of which are NSA 407MRH gunship prototypes, used primarily for marketing and sales purposes.

Like the last five Bell 407GTs recently sold to Iraq, any of them may easily be equipped with a laser-designating MX-15Di FLIR sensor in the nose for nocturnal targeting and a six-station weapons-mounting system across the rear cabin with the standard armament consisting of two GAU-19/B .50-caliber Gatling guns and two seven-shot pods full of AGR-20B 70mm laser-guided missiles, as shown below.

NSA 407MRH Lightning helicopter gunship. Photo credit: NorthStar Aviation.

Mysterious, unarmed Bell 407GX #12-1141, assigned to ATO. Photo credit: Scott Lowe, January 13, 2021.

Numerous upgrades are possible for any of these aircraft, including engine power improvements, polycarbonate windscreens, folding rotors, Bell’s “Quiet-Cruise” kit for a 20-percent noise reduction (3.8 dBA), and swapping of the main rotor assemblies and tail rotors with those from the Bell 429, which is one of the quietest helicopters in the world (only 70 dBA outside). It reduces sound pressure levels by 90 percent and perceived noise by at least an additional 50 percent, to no louder than the inside of an automobile traveling at 60 miles per hour. Amazing! The Bell 429 main rotors are only six inches longer in each direction (36 feet overall), and the tail rotors have four lightweight, 65-inch, composite blades instead of two, so the speed and vibration can be reduced significantly.

Sierra Pacific International (SPI) also manufactures a super-miniaturized, laser-designating FLIR sensor for drones, the M2-D v6 Micro Gimbal. It is only three inches tall and weighs a mere half-pound. It can be utilized as an overhead, mast-mounted sight (MMS) for flying very low in combat situations and firing laser-guided missiles from concealed locations, often below treetop level.

These gunships could be safely based at Vasyl’kiv Air Base, only 13 miles southwest of Kyiv Airport, the home of the eight remaining MiG-29MU1 Fulcrum-C jet fighters of the 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade and the mythical, “Ghost of Kyiv” fighter pilot. The hardened aircraft shelters there have openings 45 feet wide and can easily accommodate either a MiG-29 or Bell 407GT without folding the rotors.

The wingtip weapon stations may mount AGM-176B Griffin-B anti-tank missiles or AIM-92J Stinger heat-seeking air-to-air missiles, and the underwing gun stations may be used to combat test various new systems such as the Dillon 503D (21-percent lighter and 6.5-percent faster-firing than the already-lightweight GAU-19/B) .50-caliber Gatling gun from 2021 or the brand-new, Northrop Grumman Sky Viper lightweight (only 81 pounds), low-recoil, 20mm chain-gun cannon for helicopter applications (the U.S. Army’s Future Attack & Reconnaissance Aircraft, or FARA), just as the Russians are certainly using the Syrian civil war and the war in Ukraine to combat test their own new weapon systems.

CIA/SOG paramilitary operative. Photo credit: Pinterest.

As stated above, fighting the aggressive, belligerent Russians in Ukraine, even covertly and quietly from the shadows, is very, very serious business. It is certainly not for the timid or the faint-hearted, given the potentially deadly consequences.

British columnist Simon Tisdall recently wrote for The Guardian on July 17, 2022, that, “Putin is already at war with Europe. There is only one way to stop him. Time to wake up and smell the cordite…The idea (that) the Ukraine conflict could be confined to Ukraine, NATO’s politically-convenient, grand delusion, and that western sanctions and arms supplies would stop the Russians, was always a nonsense…The West’s fanciful belief it could avoid continent-wide escalation is evaporating fast…it is U.S. president Joe Biden’s too-cautious leadership of NATO that has led Europe into this geopolitical cul-de-sac…it’s Putin who is bleeding Europe. Sanctions are backfiring, or poorly enforced…Fortunately, there is an alternative: using NATO’s overwhelming power to decisively turn the military tide.

“Direct, targeted, forceful, Western action to repulse Russia’s repulsive horde is not a vote for a third world war. It’s the only feasible way to bring this escalating horror to a swift conclusion…Intent on inflicting maximum disruption, Putin openly menaces the heartlands of European democracy….NATO should act now to force Putin’s marauding troops back inside Russia’s recognized borders. It’s not only Ukraine that requires saving. It’s Europe, too.”

Ukraine’s official position on this unprovoked invasion is well known. President Volodymyr Zelensky has publicly stated that, “We will fight, and we will not retreat. We will seek all possible options to defend ourselves until Russia begins to seriously seek peace. This is our land. This is our future…We are not putting down arms. We will be defending our country, because our weapon is truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this…Glory to Ukraine…Russia has lost Ukraine forever.”

As The New York Times openly revealed on June 25th, the CIA is already engaged in secret warfare to assist the Ukrainians as much as humanly possible, apparently with or without the knowledge of risk-averse, forgetful President Biden and 98 percent of Congress. That’s probably a good thing, for now. But, as Tisdall accurately points out, it’s only a matter of time until the U.S. and NATO are forced to take overt military action in Ukraine, because Vladimir Putin isn’t backing down at all.

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Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism. He served in Europe (including Eastern Europe) and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, and hunter. You may visit his web site at: