Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the National Space Agency construction site at the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center facility in Moscow, Russia, February 27, 2022.
Sergei Güneev | Sputnik Photography Agency | via Reuters
WASHINGTON (AP) — Newly declassified U.S. intelligence indicates Russian President Vladimir Putin feels he was misled by military leaders who withheld key details about the failed invasion of Ukraine because they feared angering him, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday. Biden administration.
“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about the poor performance of the Russian military and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions, because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth,” said the communications director of the White House, Kate Bedingfield. she told reporters.
This failure to tell Putin what was really going on “has resulted in persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership,” he said.
Earlier in the day, a US official told NBC News that Putin “didn’t even know his military was using and losing recruits in Ukraine, which shows a clear failure to flow accurate information to the Russian president.”
Neither the White House nor the Pentagon said how US intelligence agencies learned what was and was not said about Putin during highly sensitive and presumably secure meetings with his military advisers.
But the decision to declassify and release the information now was the latest example of the Biden administration’s use of a novel tactic that seems tailor-made for the era of hybrid warfare. He acquired top-secret intelligence on Putin’s plans and then told the world about it, breaking with the old model of keeping classified information under lock and key.
Several times already, the White House has taken this unprecedented step, declassifying information about Putin’s secret invasion plans and releasing it to the public. And each time, it has been proven to be accurate.
“So far, White House intelligence on Ukraine has been spot on,” Scheherazade Rehman said., director of the European Union Research Center at George Washington University. “No one believed Biden when he said they were going to invade, even in the United States. But they did.”
“In this particular area, US intelligence is on their game,” he recently told CNBC.
The revelation about tensions between Putin and his top brass came at a crucial time for Ukraine. The Kremlin appears to have changed strategy after failing to achieve its initial ambition: to overthrow Ukraine’s government and install a puppet regime.
Now Russian defense officials say their main goal in sending 190,000 troops to Ukraine last month was never to occupy it, but simply to “protect” Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the country’s far east.
To that end, they say, they are relocating troops who have spent the past month trying to encircle kyiv to points further east and closer to Russian-held areas.
The Biden administration has for weeks emphasized the need to prevent the conflict, currently between Urkaine and Russia, from escalating into a clash between the world’s two biggest nuclear-armed powers: Russia and the United States.
On that front, the release of intelligence like the details announced Wednesday, which strongly suggest the United States has a mole in Putin’s inner circle, represents a calculated risk.
“If the Defense Ministry keeps Mr. Putin in the dark, when he finds out the truth, when he really starts to realize how badly his army is doing in Ukraine, he doesn’t know what kind of reaction he’s getting. cause in it,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. “There is real potential here for escalation.”
Western officials will watch closely in the coming days to see if more Russian troops move into eastern Ukraine and if Russia expands its military recruitment to recruit more soldiers. Putin is expected to make that decision on April 1.
It is not yet clear whether more soldiers would give the Kremlin a strategic advantage over the passionate and mobilized Ukrainian resistance.
“No amount of spin can mask what the world has witnessed over the last month,” Kirby said at a briefing on Tuesday. “And that is the courage and military prowess of the Ukrainian armed forces and its people.”
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