(National Sentinel) Plausible Deniability: Secretary of State nominee and current CIA Director Mike Pompeo confirmed during a Senate hearing last week that U.S. forces and their Syrian allies killed hundreds of Russian mercenaries during an attack in February.

In response to questions about the U.S. relationship with Russia, Pompeo confirmed that “a couple hundred Russians were killed” by U.S. special forces and Syrian-based allies.

The battle had already been acknowledged by Russian and Syrian officials, Time reported, but the U.S. had not offered any official confirmation publicly before Pompeo’s admission.

U.S. troops were responding to an attack by Russian mercenaries and Syrian government forces. Initially, Moscow downplayed the attack, claiming that the Russian mercenaries were not under Moscow’s control.

“In Syria, now, a handful of weeks ago the Russians met their match,” Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “A couple hundred Russians were killed.”

A U.S. official previously said that the U.S. had communicated with Russia prior to the attack and no Russian government forces were killed.

Writing in the New York Post, retired U.S. Army intelligence officer Ralph Peters said the mercenaries were acting on the instructions of President Vladimir Putin, who he said ordered the attack as a way of testing President Donald J. Trump’s resolve.

He wrote:

bullet proof vests

The most important thing about this attack on our troops is that it couldn’t have happened without Vladimir Putin’s personal approval. Nye vozmozhno.

The core of the attacking force came from the Wagner Group, Russia’s version of the American thugs who worked for the company formerly known as Blackwater. But while the media refers to the Russians as mercenaries, the Wagner Group functions as an auxiliary of the Russian military — it previously gave command performances in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. It exists to give Moscow (barely) plausible deniability.

It also allows the Kremlin to avoid reporting formal military casualties. Putin remembers the popular disaffection in the 1980s because of the “zinky boys,” the young Russian soldiers returning home in zinc coffins in large numbers.

Peters said U.S. and Russian officers were in contact during the attack, and that American advisors told their Russian counterparts U.S. troops were defending themselves. He said the Russians did not intervene because doing so would have removed any plausible deniability.

He predicted that Putin would attempt to exact revenge for the defeat.

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