US intelligence officials have determined that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been misled by his advisers about the poor performance of the Kremlin’s forces inreported by the Associated Press and confirmed by CBS News.
A US official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss recently declassified intelligence, said on Wednesday that intelligence findings indicate that Putin is aware of the situation on the information received from him, and there is now ongoing tension between him and senior Russian military officials. President Biden, in an exchange with reporters, will not comment. Later Wednesday, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield also declined to say whether the president had agreed to release the intelligence.
But the administration hopes that revealing the outcome will help prompt Putin to reconsider his options in Ukraine. War has bloody groundWith heavy loss of life and eroding morale of the Russian forces as Ukrainian troops and volunteers build an unexpectedly strong defense.
However, the propaganda risks further isolating Putin, who US officials have said appears at least in part motivated by a desire to restore the Russian prestige lost by the fall of the Soviet Union.
The Pentagon agrees with the intelligence community’s conclusion that Putin has “not been fully informed” by the Defense Department “at every turn” over the past month. Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday it was “disturbing” because he may not have the full picture. “It’s his war,” Kirby said. “So, the fact that he might not have all the context, that he might not fully understand the degree to which his forces have failed in Ukraine — that’s a bit annoying to be honest with you.”
Kirby went on to say that his lack of context could affect the negotiations.
“If he’s not informed, how will his negotiators come to an agreement? You also don’t know how a leader like that would react,” Kirby said.
In Algeria on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken was asked about the report he felt was misled by Putin’s defense ministers, and did not directly confirm the story, but told reporters that “one of the weaknesses of the authoritarian regimes in Achilles is that you don’t. We have people in those regimes.” They speak truth to power or lack the ability to speak truth to power. And I think that’s something we see in Russia.”
Also on Wednesday, President Biden spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for 55 minutes and told him that an additional $500 million in direct aid to Ukraine was on its way. It is the latest tranche of US aid as the Russian invasion continues.
The two also reviewed the security assistance already delivered to Ukraine and the effects of the weapons on the war, according to the White House.
The anonymous official did not provide the basic evidence for how US intelligence made its decision.
The intelligence community concluded that Putin was unaware that his military was using – and losing – recruits in Ukraine. I also decided that he is not fully aware of the extent of the Russian economyaffected by the economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.
The official said the findings show a “clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information” to Putin, and show that Putin’s top advisers are “afraid to tell him the truth.”
Zelensky lobbied the Biden administration and Western allies to provide Ukraine with military aircraft, something the United States and other NATO countries have so far refused to match over fears that it could lead to an expansion of the war by Russia beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement of $500 million in aid, the Biden administration has sent Ukraine nearly $2 billion in humanitarian and security assistance since the war began in late February.
That’s part of the $13.6 billion Congress approved earlier this month for Ukraine in a larger spending bill. The House and Senate will receive classified briefings on Ukraine on Wednesday.
The new intelligence came after the White House on Tuesday expressed skepticism about Russia’s public announcement that it would back down from operations near Kyiv in an effort to increase confidence in ongoing talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials in Turkey.
Ukrainian officials say Russia didand the northern city of Chernihiv despite Russia’s claim that it will scale back operations to “increase mutual trust” for peace talks.
The Pentagon said Wednesday that over the past 24 hours it has seen some Russian forces in areas around Kiev move north toward or toward Belarus. The Pentagon’s press secretary, John Kirby, said in interviews with CNN and Fox Business that the United States does not view this as a withdrawal, but as an attempt by Russia to resupply, retool and then reposition its forces.
Outside Russia, Putin has long been seen as aloof, surrounded by officials who don’t always tell him the truth. US officials have said publicly that they believe the limited flow of information — perhaps exacerbated by Putin’s increasing isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic — may have given the Russian president unrealistic views of how quickly he can invade Ukraine.
The Biden administration before the war launched an unprecedented effort toWhat I thought were Putin’s invasion plans, relying on intelligence findings. While Russia was still invading, the White House is widely credited with drawing attention to Ukraine and prompting initially reluctant allies to support tough sanctions that decimated the Russian economy.
But in his recent testimony before Congress, Lieutenant General Scott Perrier, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in his final testimony before Congress, underscoring the limits of intelligence, that the United States underestimated Ukraine’s will to fight before the invasion.
Sarah Cook, Eleanor Watson and Bo Ericson contributed to this report.
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