Retired Col. Mark Cancian, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the separation between Putin and his advisers can be seen, physically, in how he meets with them: Both parties are usually at opposite ends of a 30-foot conference table.
U.S. intelligence officials said advisers are scared to tell the authoritarian president the truth about what’s happening on the ground. Russia has achieved less, and struggled more than it initially anticipated when it invaded Ukraine in February.
Its main goal of toppling Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, hadn’t happened, and low morale in its army and a lack of coordination between Russia’s air and ground forces have impeded its progress.
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said Russian officials’ lies also extend to the effect of Western sanctions on the Russian economy.
In authoritarian regimes, no one wants to bring bad news to the top, Cancian said. “You tend to get punished,” he said, adding there’s “no reward for honesty.”
“And there’s also no outside sources of information. Putin has shut all those down. So it’s very possible that he has isolated himself, and does not fully understand what’s happening on the ground,” Cancian said.
Looking at how Russian troops are doing on the ground, they’ve continued their offensives, and haven’t changed operations significantly, even after a stalemate.
“This would be the time when I think a well-informed political leadership would start to make a deal recognizing that they’re not going to achieve their full objectives,” Cancian said. “One hopes that at some point, the Russian generals get together and go to Putin, pointing out that the army will break under the strain of continuing operations, losses, lower morale, dwindling stockpiles.”
Recently declassified findings indicate that Putin has become aware of the misinformation he is getting, leading to tension between the Russian president and senior military officials.