WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. intelligence officials have determined that Russian President Vladimir Putin was misinformed by his advisers about the poor performance of his country’s forces in Ukraine.
A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the recently declassified intelligence, said on Wednesday that the discovery of the intelligence indicates that Putin is aware of the situation regarding the information reaching him and that there is now ongoing tensions between him and senior Russian military officials. Biden, in an exchange with reporters, said he couldn’t comment.
The administration hopes that disclosing the discovery could help Putin reconsider his options in Ukraine. The war is in a bloody stalemate across much of the country, with heavy casualties and declining Russian troop morale as Ukrainian forces and volunteers put up a surprisingly strong defense.
But the publicity could also risk further isolating Putin, who US officials say appears at least partly motivated by a desire to regain Russian prestige lost by the fall of the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a 55-minute call that an additional $500 million in direct aid for Ukraine was on the way. This is the latest wave of American aid as the Russian invasion continues.
Asked about the latest intelligence, Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not confirm the findings, but suggested there is a dynamic within the Kremlin where advisers do not want to speak candidly to Putin.
“One of the Achilles’ heels of autocracies is that there are no people in these systems who speak truth to power or have the ability to speak truth to power, and I think that’s what we see in Russia,” Blinken said. journalists during a stopover in Algeria on Wednesday.
The unidentified official did not detail the underlying evidence of how US intelligence came to their decision.
The intelligence community concluded that Putin was unaware that his army had used and lost conscripts in Ukraine. They also determined that he was not fully aware of the extent to which Russia’s economy is being 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.
Biden briefed Zelensky on the latest aid tranche during a call in which leaders also reviewed security aid already delivered to Ukraine and the effects the weapons have had on the war, according to the White House.
Zelesnkyy has pressed the Biden administration and other Western allies to supply Ukraine with military jets, something the US and other NATO nations have so far been unwilling to accept out of fear that this does not lead Russia to extend the war beyond the borders of Ukraine.
Before Wednesday’s announcement of $500 million in aid, the Biden administration had sent about $2 billion in humanitarian and security assistance to Ukraine since the war began last month.
It’s part of the $13.6 billion Congress approved earlier this month for Ukraine as part of a broader spending bill.
The Ukrainian presidential website reports that Zelenskyy told Biden: “We need peace, and it will only be achieved when we have a strong position on the battlefield. Our morale is strong, there is enough determination, but we need your immediate support.
The new information came 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.
Russian forces shelled areas around the Ukrainian capital and another city overnight, regional leaders said on Wednesday.
The Pentagon said Wednesday that in the past 24 hours it has seen Russian troops in areas around kyiv moving north or into Belarus.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in interviews with CNN and Fox Business that the United States does not see this as a withdrawal, but as an attempt by Russia to resupply, refit and then reposition troops.
Putin has long been seen 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.
AP writers Matthew Lee in Algiers, Algeria, and Lolita C. Baldor contributed reporting.