US defence secretary Lloyd Austin has sought to tamp down any discord between America and its allies over the massive leak of classified documents.
He addressed the subject in his opening remarks at a meeting on Friday between defence leaders from around the world to co-ordinate additional military aid to Ukraine.
The move underscored the gravity of the situation, since many of the documents distributed online revealed details on the status of the war in Ukraine and the ongoing delivery of weapons and other equipment to Ukrainian forces in battle — intelligence matters the other defence officials are keenly involved in.
“I take this issue very seriously,” Mr Austin said at the start of the daylong session at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Mr Austin said he had spoken to allies and partners about the matter, adding: “I’ve been struck by your solidarity and your commitment to reject efforts to divide us.
“And we will not let anything fracture our unity.”
The meeting marks the one-year anniversary of the creation by Mr Austin of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group.
It is the 11th time the defence leaders have met to co-ordinate aid to the invaded country.
They have vowed to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian forces for as long as it takes.
But the document leaks pose a multi-pronged concern.
Some allies in the room may be more wary about sharing intelligence and other information with the US. fearing it might spill out to the public.
Others may worry that the US will clamp down on its own dissemination of intelligence involving the war, leaving them less informed.
The unease comes at a crucial time.
Ukrainian leaders are gearing up for the launch of a spring counteroffensive to try and take back territory gained by the Russians, hoping to give Kyiv a stronger position if the warring sides try to negotiate peace.
So far, Mr Austin and others have insisted the intelligence leak has not driven a wedge between the US and its allies and partners.
But the breach exposing closely held intelligence has sparked international concern and raised fresh questions about America’s ability to safeguard its secrets.
US airman Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, has been charged under the Espionage Act with unauthorised retention and transmission of classified national defence information.
He served as an information technology specialist and held a top secret security clearance, which gave him access to highly classified programmes.
Teixeira, 21, is accused of sharing highly classified military documents about Russia’s war in Ukraine and other top national security issues in a chat room on Discord, a social media platform that started as a hangout for gamers.
US air force leaders said earlier this week that they were investigating how a lone airman could access and distribute possibly hundreds of highly classified documents.
The air force has also taken away the intelligence mission from the Air National Guard 102nd Intelligence Wing based in Cape Cod, where Teixeira served, pending further review.