Putin advisers ‘afraid to tell him the truth’ over Ukraine mistake, says GCHQ head | Vladimir Putin

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Vladimir Putin has made a strategic miscalculation in launching the invasion of Ukraine and his advisers are “afraid to tell him the truth” about the magnitude of his mistake, the chief of British spy agency GCHQ will say in a speech on Thursday.

Sir Jeremy Fleming, who was to give a speech in Australia, said the Russian leader had misjudged the strength of the Ukrainian resistance, the Western response and the ability of his troops to achieve a quick victory.

“It all comes down to the strategic miscalculation that Western leaders warned Putin. It has become his personal war, with the costs being paid by innocent people in Ukraine and, increasingly, ordinary Russians as well,” Fleming will say, according to a pre-released text of his remarks.

Western security officials want to place responsibility for February’s unprovoked invasion on Putin, whom they characterize as a dominant, isolated leader who makes bad decisions, in part because he no longer receives accurate information or honest opinions from his subordinates.

As a result, Fleming said he believed failing to secure a quick victory should cause discord in the Kremlin. “And while we believe Putin’s advisers are afraid to tell him the truth, the regime needs to be crystal clear about what’s going on and the extent of these misjudgments.”

Earlier, US officials made a similar point, arguing that Putin was misled by advisers who were too afraid to tell him how badly the war in Ukraine is going and how damaging Western sanctions have been.

“We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military, which has led to ongoing tensions between Putin and his military leadership,” said Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director.

“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how poorly 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: “So it is becoming increasingly clear that Putin’s war has been a strategic blunder that has left Russia weaker in the long run and more and more isolated on the world stage.”

Prior to the invasion, Putin held a bizarre meeting with his top advisers on whether to recognize the self-proclaimed republics in Luhansk and Donetsk. Some prominent figures were clearly afraid of the president, who has led the country for 22 years, because he demanded that they support the breakaway territories.

There were also growing signs, Fleming would have to say, that Russian soldiers were “deficient in weapons and morale” “refused to carry out orders, sabotage their own equipment, and even accidentally shoot down their own plane”.

No evidence was given to substantiate the plane crash claim, although Whitehall sources said they were confident enough to have Fleming reference it in the speech, in part to show Russian insiders their knowledge of the military situation.

The spy chief also warned China not to “align too closely” with Russia as the war continues, the latest in a series of comments by Western leaders and officials designed to persuade Beijing not to provide Moscow with money and weapons. .

Fleming said Putin made a clear “strategic choice” to join China before the fighting broke out, but underlying tensions between the two countries persisted — and risks to both in trying to work together.

“Russia understands that in the long run China will become stronger militarily and economically. Some of their interests clash; Russia could be squeezed out of the equation,” Fleming is expected to say.

“And it’s equally clear that a China that wants to set the rules of the road — the standards for a new global governance — is not well served by a close alliance with a regime that is deliberately and illegally ignoring them.”

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