ALGIERS — U.S. intelligence thinks that Russian President Vladimir Putin feels misled by the Russian military, a U.S. official said in a statement Wednesday, describing “persistent tension” between Putin and the Russian Defense Ministry’s leadership.
“Putin didn’t even know his military was using and losing conscripts in Ukraine, showing a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information to the Russian President,” the U.S. official said in the statement, speaking on the condition of anonymity under rules set by the Biden administration.
“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions, because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth,” the U.S. official added.
Asked about those comments during a briefing in Algeria, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “One of the Achilles’ heels of autocracies is that we don’t have people in those systems who speak truth to power or have the ability to speak truth to power. And I think that is something that we’re seeing in Russia.”
Blinken was speaking at the U.S. Embassy in Algiers on his four-country swing through Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
At the Pentagon on Wednesday, spokesman John Kirby called it “discomforting” that Putin “may not fully understand the degree to which his forces are failing” thus far in Ukraine.
“It’s his military,” Kirby said. “It’s his war. He chose it. … And certainly, one outcome of that could be a less-than-faithful effort at negotiating some sort of settlement here. If he’s not fully informed of how poorly he’s doing, then how are his negotiators going to come up with an agreement that is enduring?
“The other thing,” Kirby added, “is, you don’t know how a leader like that is going to react to getting bad news.”
In the lead-up to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, U.S. intelligence emphasized that Putin was being misled by his close advisers about the feasibility of a multi-front invasion of Ukraine.
That information is part of what led U.S. officials to be so concerned about the possibility of an invasion, because the Biden administration came to believe that Putin was not receiving a full picture of how difficult such a broad military operation would be.
― Sonne reported from Washington. Alex Horton in Washington contributed to this report.