Putin feels misled by the Russian military, says a US official
US intelligence officials have found that Russian President Vladimir Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about the poor performance of Kremlin troops inreported the Associated Press and confirmed to CBS News.
A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss recently declassified intelligence, said Wednesday the intelligence finding showed Putin was aware of the situation surrounding the information he had received and that there were ongoing tensions between him and senior Russian officials give to military officials. President Biden declined to comment in exchanges with reporters. Later on Wednesday, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield also declined to say whether the president consented to the release of the intelligence information.
However, the government hopes the announcement of the result could help Putin reconsider his options in Ukraine. The war has come to a bloody endwith heavy casualties and falling Russian troop morale as Ukrainian forces and volunteers put up an unexpectedly strong defense.
But the public risks further isolating Putin, who US officials say appears to be driven, at least in part, by a desire to regain Russian prestige lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Pentagon agrees with the intelligence community’s conclusion that Putin was “not fully briefed” by the Defense Department last month. Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday it was “disturbing” that he might not have the full picture. “It’s his war. He chose him,” Kirby said. “The fact that he may not have all the context, that he may not fully understand the extent to which his forces are failing in Ukraine — that’s a little awkward, to be honest.”
Kirby went on to say that his lack of all the necessary context could hamper the negotiations.
“If he is not informed, how will his negotiators come to an agreement? You also don’t know how such a leader will react,” Kirby said.
When asked in Algeria on Wednesday about the report that Putin feels misled by his defense ministers, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken didn’t directly confirm the story, but he did tell reporters that “one of the Achilles’ heels of autocracies is that you don’t do it There are people in these systems who tell the truth to the powerful or are unable to tell the truth to the powerful. And I think that’s something we’re seeing in Russia.”
Also on Wednesday, President Biden spoke for about 55 minutes with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and informed him that another $500 million in direct aid to Ukraine was on the way. It is the latest installment of American aid as the Russian invasion continues.
The two also reviewed security aid already delivered to Ukraine and the weapons’ impact on the war, according to the White House.
The unidentified official did not detail the underlying evidence of how US intelligence made its decision.
Intelligence agencies have concluded that Putin was unaware that his military had deployed — and lost — conscripts in Ukraine. And it has also emerged that he is not fully aware of the extent to which the Russian economy is batteredis being damaged by the economic sanctions imposed by the US and its allies.
The findings show Putin a “clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information” and show that Putin’s senior advisers are “afraid to tell him the truth,” the official said.
Zelesnkyy has urged the Biden administration and Western allies to provide Ukraine with military jets, something the US and other NATO countries have so far opposed over fears that it would lead to Russia expanding the war beyond Ukraine’s borders could lead.
Before announcing $500 million in aid on Wednesday, the Biden administration had sent about $2 billion in humanitarian and security aid to Ukraine since the war began in late February.
That’s part of the $13.6 billion Congress approved for Ukraine earlier this month in a major spending bill. The House of Representatives and Senate will receive secret briefings on Ukraine on Wednesday.
The new information came after the White House on Tuesday expressed skepticism about Russia’s public announcement that it would be calling back operations near Kyiv to boost confidence in ongoing talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials in Turkey.
And Ukrainian officials say Russia hasand the northern city of Chernihiv, despite Russia’s claims that it would scale back operations “to boost mutual trust” for peace talks.
The Pentagon said Wednesday it had seen some Russian troops in areas around Kyiv moving north toward or toward Belarus in the past 24 hours. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, in interviews with CNN and Fox Business, said the US does not view this as a retreat, but rather as an attempt by Russia to resupply, re-equip, and then relocate its troops.
Outside of Russia, Putin has long been considered isolated and surrounded by officials who don’t always tell him the truth. US officials have publicly said they believe the limited flow of information — possibly exacerbated by Putin’s increased isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic — may have given the Russian president unrealistic views about how quickly he could roll over Ukraine.
The Biden administration made an unprecedented effort before the warWhat she believed were Putin’s invasion plans based on intelligence findings. While Russia was still invading, the White House was widely credited with turning attention to Ukraine and urging initially reluctant allies to support tough sanctions that have decimated Russia’s economy.
But the US underscored the limitations of intelligence and also underestimated Ukraine’s will to fight before the invasion, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, head of defense intelligence, told Congress recently.
Sara Cook, Eleanor Watson, and Bo Erickson contributed to this report.