US says Putin feels ‘misled’ by Russian military

The White House said Wednesday that U.S. intelligence assesses that Russian President Vladimir Putin feels “misled” by the Russian military in a way that has resulted in tensions between him and his military leadership.  

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield detailed the declassified intelligence from the White House podium Wednesday afternoon, following a pattern of the Biden administration proactively declassifying and releasing intelligence related to Russia to disrupt Moscow’s plans in its ongoing assault on Ukraine.  

“We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military, which has resulted in persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership,” Bedingfield told reporters.

“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,” she added. 

The intelligence adds to a body of evidence that Putin’s war in Ukraine, Bedingfield said, has been a “strategic blunder.”

Bedingfield would not say much about the motivation behind releasing the intelligence beyond saying that it helps the public understand that Russia is committing a “strategic error” with its invasion of Ukraine.  

She declined to speak more about the underlying intelligence, citing the need to protect sources and methods, but suggested the government wouldn’t have released the information unless officials were confident in the assessment.

A U.S. official told The Hill that there is “persistent tension” between Putin and the Russian Ministry of Defense “stemming from Putin’s mistrust” of its 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 official said.  

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby declined to discuss the intelligence in detail but said the Pentagon concurred with the conclusion that Putin has not been “fully informed” by his military “at every turn over the last month.”  

The new information comes as Russia continues to grind its assault on Ukraine, launching strikes near the northern cities of Kyiv and Chernihiv despite a pledge to scale back attacks there on Tuesday.  

Russia has run into more resistance than expected from Ukrainian forces, and some analysts believe Russia is getting ready to shift its strategy away from capturing Kyiv.  

Updated: 4:52 p.m. 

Tags John Kirby Kate Bedingfield Russian military Vladimir Putin
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