Putin Clueless and Misinformed About Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, Says U.S. Intelligence – Opinion

One of the mysteries of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is what went so wrong. Most of the really, really smart people thought the war would be over in about 48-72 hours (here, I will fess up if you’d told me on the morning of February 24 that the Russian Army would still be having its ass handed to it as Week 6 of the war was about to start, I don’t think I could’ve taken that opinion seriously)

Some people haven’t given up.

There were several serious flaws in the Russian invasion.

  • They attacked a wide front, with too many targets and not enough forces to complete the tactical missions.
  • They lost the fighting abilities and spirit of Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
  • They dismissed the possibility that they might be rejected by the Ukrainians.
  • Because they assumed away the capabilities of their enemy, they didn’t adequately plan for refueling, rearming, and maintenance of their combat vehicles or sustaining their troops. As I’ve noted, the chances of a Russian soldier surviving his wounds are the same as in World War II (Russia Calling 100,000 Reservists to Active Duty and Moving Wagner Group From Syria to Deal With Ukraine Manpower Crunch).

The war is in its sixth week. A new narrative emerges.

Wednesday’s edition of the New York Times gives more depth to Jack Kirby’s statement. (The paywall is hidden behind this link.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has been misinformed by his advisers about the Russian military’s struggles in Ukraine, according to declassified U.S. intelligence.

The intelligence, according to multiple U.S. officials, shows what appears to be growing tension between Mr. Putin and the Ministry of Defense, including with the Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, who was once among the most trusted members of the Kremlin’s inner circle.

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of the State, acknowledged that Putin received less truthful information than he had given him from his advisers.

“With regard to President Putin, look, what I can tell you is this, and I said this before, one of the Achilles’ heel 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,” Mr. Blinken said. “And I think that is something that we’re seeing in Russia.”

Other American officials have said that Mr. Putin’s rigid isolation during the pandemic and willingness to publicly rebuke advisers who do not share his views have created a degree of wariness, or even fear, in senior ranks of the Russian military. According to officials, Mr. Putin may be receiving inaccurate or optimistic information about Russian military progress.

According to U.S. officials, Mr. Putin appeared not to be aware that Russian soldiers had used conscripts in Ukraine and that many of the casualties were drafted soldiers. Mr. Putin’s ignorance showed “a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information to the Russian president,” according to a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the declassified, but still sensitive, material. There “is now persistent tension” between Mr. Putin and the Defense Ministry, the official said.

Officials also stated that the American intelligence assessment found that Putin did not fully understand how detrimental Western sanctions were to Russia’s economy.

Russian forces are continuing to lose the war. Ukraine’s military has not only held its own but also begun counterattacking. Some U.S. officials believe that senior Russian officials are wary of delivering truthful assessments — potentially afraid that the messengers of bad news will be held responsible for the battlefield failures.

The Russian military’s stumbles have eroded trust between Mr. Putin and his Ministry of Defense. Although Mr. Putin had previously considered Mr. Shoigu to be one of his few advisors, the prosecution in Ukraine of war has damaged that relationship.

Two top intelligence officers were placed under house arrest by Mr. Putin for providing insufficient intelligence prior to the invasion. This may have contributed further to the atmosphere of fear.

With evidence of Mr. Putin’s frustration growing, the United States has in recent weeks been building up an intelligence case that he had not been getting accurate assessments from the Ministry of Defense and other senior officials. Officials in the United States believe Mr. Putin is still being misled, and senior advisers don’t want to share the truth.

While I’ve covered the apparent disarray in the Kremlin (see Top General in Putin’s Personal Army Is Arrested by FSB; Correlation or Causation? The Ukraine Invasion Has Stalled and Putin’s Defense Minister and Chief of the General Staff Have Vanished; and Russia’s Defense Minister Surfaces After Two Week Disappearance and the Mystery Deepens). Some of these statements are true.

Putin does not strike you as a guy who likes to hear “no.” On the contrary, he seems to have a lot in common with Barack Obama’s conceit that he’s the smartest guy in the room and can see things no one else can see; remember this?

I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I have more knowledge about specific policies than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.

In fairness, Putin has probably realized that he’s surrounded by idiots and learned to trust his own judgment over his time in office. But he also seems to be a case study (as we in the US have had with Obama and Biden–though heaven only knows who Biden has hired as he’s a D level f***wit) of that B-school aphorism, “A’s Hire A’s — and B’s Hire C’s. So Putin has surrounded himself with C’s.

Putting aside, for a moment, the fact that the people behind this assessment were the same ones that aided and abetted the Russia Hoax perpetrated against President Trump and who declared Hunter Biden’s laptop to be a Russian provocation is any part of this story plausible were it told by people capable of telling the truth?

It is possible that all of Russia was afraid to inform the Emperor about the new clothes. But I’m sure it is, and it shows an amazing level of self-deceit. I’m willing to credit that he was fed horsecrap on the operational abilities of the Russian Army because armies tend to lie about their readiness unless there is a system to enforce the rules, and there is not an ethic of lying on reports in the officer corps. I’m much less inclined to believe that he hasn’t been intensely monitoring Western sanctions as he whines about them so much. I also find it difficult to believe that Putin, the very “reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter” kind of guy described in the story, could give a public order that conscripts would not be used in combat and someone down the chain-of-command would have the cojones to say, “Igor, I don’t care that you are a conscript and I don’t care what Putin says, I’m telling you to get on the f***ing truck.” That makes no sense to me.

Even if we accept that the Russian military lied through its teeth about its capabilities to its political masters or even the upper ranks, we still have to wrestle with the idea that Putin doesn’t have any idea about what is happening on the ground in Ukraine, especially about casualties. This is the worst time in history, and all those with any survival instinct are running for their lives. It is impossible to believe people aren’t lined up to point fingers at enemies and rivals, blaming them for a major role in the fiasco. Even if the senior people don’t tell him, a “little bird” will chirp away in the boss’ ear. This could be the reason that the Defense Minister hasn’t been seen for nearly three weeks and why other people are doing what he should be doing (Russia’s General Staff Claims Invasion Objectives ‘Mainly Accomplished’ and Phase II of Ukraine Invasion Is Starting; Russian Army Begins to Withdraw From Kiev to Russia and a Lot of Folks Are Very Unhappy With the Pig in the Poke They Were Sold).

This makes it less plausible that his analysis of the situation is now leaked. Why is this happening now? Why not just now, when this information was already available two weeks earlier?

The intel leak may have another purpose. They are almost giving Putin the pass because Putin’s staff has lied to them. This is an on-ramp that facilitates negotiations. This gives him the power to expel the highest ranks of military and bureaucracy, blaming both them and their poor intelligence for the failed plan. Then he’s only left with responsibility for the idea.


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