WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. intelligence officials have determined that Russian President Vladimir Putin was misinformed by his advisers about the performance of Russian forces in Ukraine, according to a U.S. official.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity on Wednesday to discuss the discovery of the recently declassified intelligence, said Putin felt misled by the Russian military and there were now lingering tensions between him and senior Russian defense officials.
The official did not detail the underlying evidence of how US intelligence came to this decision.
But the intelligence community concluded that Putin was unaware that the military had used and lost conscripts in Ukraine. They also determined that Putin was not fully aware of the extent to which Russia’s economy is damaged by economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.
The results demonstrate a “clear break in the flow of accurate information” to Putin and show that Putin’s top advisers are “afraid to tell him the truth”, the official said.
The new information comes after the White House on Tuesday expressed skepticism over Russia’s public announcement that it would recall operations near kyiv in a bid to boost confidence in ongoing talks between Ukrainian officials and Russians in Turkey.
“We’ll see,” Biden said of the announcement. “I don’t see it until I see what their actions are.”
Russian forces shelled areas around the Ukrainian capital and another city overnight, regional leaders said on Wednesday.
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said the administration viewed any movement of Russian forces as “redeployment, not withdrawal” and that “no one should be fooled by Russia’s announcement.”
Biden was due to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday to discuss the latest developments in the war.
Putin has long been viewed outside of Russia as an insular person and surrounded by officials who don’t always tell him the truth. US officials have said publicly that they believe a limited flow of information – perhaps exacerbated by Putin’s increased isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic – may have given the Russian president an unrealistic view of the speed with which he could invade Ukraine.
The pre-war Biden administration launched an unprecedented effort to publicize what it believed to be Putin’s invasion plans, based on intelligence findings. As Russia continued to invade, the White House was widely credited with drawing attention to Ukraine and pushing initially reluctant allies to support the harsh sanctions that have hammered the Russian economy.
But underscoring intelligence limitations, the United States also underestimated Ukraine’s willingness to fight before the invasion, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in a briefing. recent testimony before Congress.