US Intelligence Suggests Putin Isn't Getting the Full Story

Aides are misinforming Russian president about invasion, officials say
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2022 4:44 PM CDT
US Intelligence Suggests Putin Isn't Getting the Full Story
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu shows his signature under a roadmap for military cooperation between Russia and China during a video call with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe in Moscow last November.   (Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

(Newser) – Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't aware of the true state of his invasion of Ukraine because aides aren't telling him, US intelligence officials have concluded. The disconnect is straining relations between Putin and his advisers, the New York Times reports. Asked Wednesday about the situation, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: "One of the Achilles' heels of autocracies is that you don't have people in those systems who speak truth to power or who have the ability to speak truth to power. And I think that is something that we're seeing in Russia." The matters Putin is not receiving full and accurate information about, US officials say, include:

  • Russian troops' progress: Aides evidently are giving Putin incomplete and sugarcoated information about the stalling advance. Putin realizes this, increasing tension in the Kremlin, per CBS News. Once a Putin favorite, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is among those affected.
  • The makeup of his forces: Putin seemed to not know Russian troops in Ukraine include conscripts, who are among the casualties. Nor was he told that drafted Russian soldiers are being killed, officials said. This demonstrates "a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information," one American official said.
  • The effect of sanctions: Putin hasn't been made aware of the widespread harm the Western sanctions are inflicting on the Russian economy.

Putin's tendency to publicly scold aides has contributed to his isolation, said the officials, who didn't disclose how they acquired the information. An American general conceded Tuesday that the US might have its own intelligence shortcomings. Asked in a hearing by Republican Sen. Roger Wicker if, given the way the fighting has gone, the US overestimated Russia's military and underestimated Ukraine's, Gen. Tod Wolters said "could be." American intelligence expected Russian forces to advance quickly, but many analysts now predict a stalemate in Ukraine. When the fighting ends, said Wolters, the top US general in Europe, a review will be conducted to look for areas that need improvement, per CNN. "This could be one of those areas," he said. (Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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