“Persistent tensions” are said to have grown between Russia’s military leadership and President Vladimir Putin, who, according to US intelligence, feels misled after repeated setbacks in Ukraine.
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said the administration had “information” about the split between Putin and his advisers but had not provided the evidence underlying the claim.
“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how poorly the Russian military is performing and how sanctions are crippling the Russian economy because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth,” she told White House’s daily briefing.
“Thus, it is becoming increasingly clear that Putin’s war was a strategic mistake that has weakened Russia over the long term and increasingly isolated it on the world stage.”
Her comments echo previously anonymous reports from US officials who said there was a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information to the Kremlin.
“Putin didn’t even know that his military was deploying and losing conscripts in Ukraine,” the official said The hill.
While Joe Biden told reporters during a vaccine photo op that he “could not” comment on tensions within Putin’s ranks, the claims were echoed by both the State Department, the Pentagon and British government officials.
Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said during a briefing in Algeria that the reports are a symptom of the “Achilles heel” of an autocracy where the people cannot tell the truth to those in power.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby added it was “disturbing” that Putin may not “fully understand the degree to which his forces are failing in Ukraine.”
“It’s his military,” Kirby said accordingly to the Washington Post. “It’s his war. He chose it. … And certainly one result of this could be a less-than-loyal attempt to negotiate some sort of settlement here. If he is not fully informed of how badly he is doing, how will his negotiators come to a lasting agreement?”
Exactly how the Russian military is doing, badly or not, is shrouded in the fog of war and competing narratives. According to the head of Britain’s intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Mr Putin “massively misjudged the situation”.
The head of Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency, Sir Jeremy Fleming, will use a rare public speech in Australia on Thursday to outline the modus operandi of demoralized Russian soldiers – from shooting down their own planes and sabotaging their own equipment to refusing to obey orders.
The pre-release text of his remarks was released to UK media Sky News and The guard claim that Russia’s cyber attackers are “looking for targets” outside of Ukraine, in the countries opposing Putin’s invasion.
He is expected to add that mercenaries from the Wagner private military group are preparing to send larger numbers of soldiers to Ukraine, which Mr Putin would likely use as “cannon fodder” to limit military casualties.
“We have seen Russian soldiers – without weapons or morals – refusing to obey orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own planes,” he said in his comments.
“And while we believe Putin’s advisers are afraid to tell him the truth, the regime needs to be clear about what is happening and the extent of these miscalculations,” the comments continued.