Russian President Vladimir Putin has been misled by his advisers about the Russian military performance in Ukraine and the effect of Western sanctions on Russia’s economy, the White House said.
“We have information that Putin felt cheated by the Russian military, which has resulted in persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership,” Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director, told reporters during a news briefing. on Wednesday.
“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how poorly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions because his top advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth,” he said.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity on Wednesday, said Washington’s assessment was based on recently declassified intelligence information.
The Biden administration has been advertising US intelligence findings since before Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24, using the information to rally European allies and counter Russian disinformation.
The United States was presenting this information now to show that “this has been a strategic mistake for Russia,” Bedingfield said.
US officials told Congress earlier this month that Russian forces had received substantial setbacks in Ukraine. The Kremlin denied those reports, with Putin himself saying in early March that everything was going “according to plan”.
Now the US intelligence community has concluded that “Putin didn’t even know his military was using and losing recruits in Ukraine,” the US official said, “showing a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information to the Russian president.”
A senior European diplomat said the US assessment was in line with European thinking.
“Putin thought things were going better than they were. That’s the problem with surrounding yourself with ‘yes men’ or just sitting with them at the end of a very long table,” the diplomat said.
russian recruits They were told they were taking part in military exercises but had to sign a document before the invasion that expanded their duties, two European diplomats said.
“They were misled, poorly trained and then they came and found old Ukrainian women who looked like their grandmothers and were yelling at them to go home,” added one of the diplomats.
US officials are hopeful that disclosure of the findings that Putin is being misled could help push the Russian leader to reconsider his options in Ukraine.
The Kremlin had no immediate comment after the end of business in Moscow, and the Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
The war in Ukraine has become a bloody impasse in much of the country, with heavy casualties and the morale of Russian troops sinking as Ukrainian forces and volunteers put up an unexpectedly strong defense.
Russian forces have repositioned around kyiv and bombing intensified in other cities.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden spoke by phone Wednesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for about an hour, the White House said in a statement.
The two men discussed “around the clock” US efforts to meet Ukraine’s security requests, the “critical effects” that US-supplied weapons are having on the conflict, and the “additional capabilities” that Washington and its allies are preparing to supply the Ukrainian army.
Zelenskyy gave Biden an update on the state of Ukraine’s negotiations with Russiataking place in Turkey this week.
Russia promised on Tuesday to reduce military activity near Kyiv and in the northern city of Chernihiv, while Ukrainian negotiators said they were willing to accept neutral status, one of Moscow’s key demands, if an international agreement under which other countries would serve as guarantors for Ukraine. security would enter his place.
Biden told reporters That same day it remains to be seen if Russia takes any action to reduce its military operations in Ukraine. “We’ll see if they go ahead with what they’re suggesting,” he said.
In an exchange with reporters on Wednesday, Biden said he could not comment on the US intelligence findings.
The United States has provided about $1 billion in direct military aid to Ukraine, including Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft systems.
Biden informed Zelenskyy on Wednesday that the US would also give the Ukrainian government $500 million in direct financial support.
The United States Congress has approved $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine and its Eastern European neighbors who host the more than four million refugees who have fled the country.