In February, Putin believes in a quick victory in Ukraine. But the resistance is stronger than expected. According to one report, the incorrect assessment of the situation is due to the Kremlin chief's environment. Accordingly, the Russian President has been moving further and further away from reality for years.
A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin has only limited understanding of the real situation of his troops in Ukraine. Accordingly, the Kremlin boss surrounds himself with a small circle of advisors who strengthen his warlike world view and hold back or gloss over bad news.
The US newspaper based its research on interviews with former and current Russian officials and people close to the Kremlin. The interviewees described Putin as a suspicious and isolated leader who was unable or unwilling to believe that Ukraine could successfully resist.
According to intelligence sources, Putin wakes up at 7 a.m. every morning and is then given a written briefing on the war, the content of which has been carefully filtered in advance to highlight successes and downplay setbacks. "People around Putin are protecting themselves," journalist Ekaterina Vinokorova told WSJ. "They firmly believe that they must not upset the President."
Putin is critical of the internet for fear of digital surveillance. That is why he is heavily dependent on the briefings that his advisors prepare. In addition, the front commanders do not report directly to the president, but to the domestic secret service FSB, which then forwards the information to the Security Council, writes the WSJ. The data would then be forwarded to Putin via the Secretary of the Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev. However, due to the reporting chain, it could take days for information from the battlefield to reach Putin's desk.
The WSJ writes that the starting point for Putin's overconfidence with regard to Ukraine was the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Accordingly, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and some other advisors advised against conquering the peninsula, but Putin ignored it. The rapid victory of the Russian troops then meant that Putin's environment shrank to a few war-loving advisors.
The corona pandemic has further increased the isolation of Putin, who is concerned about his health. At his summer residence on the Black Sea, Putin is said to have frequently met with his old companion Yuri Kovalchuk. Both are said to have repeatedly fantasized about their common idea of a Greater Russia when they met. CIA director Bill Burns said last April that Putin's circle of advisers had been reduced. "In this small circle, it has never been career-enhancing to question his [Putin's] judgment or his almost mystical belief that his destiny is to restore Russia's influence," Burns said.
The WSJ writes that while his circle of advisors shrunk, Putin became increasingly paranoid. He was convinced that the United States would station nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Shoigu have already lacked the influence to exert a moderating influence on Putin.
Putin is said to have exchanged views on Ukraine with the oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, who was later caught by Ukrainian security forces and subsequently released through a prisoner exchange. For years, the billionaire is said to have had a dedicated line to the Kremlin so that he could reach Putin personally at any time. It was also Medvedchuk who told Putin that the Russian soldiers would be warmly received in Ukraine. Polls falsified by the FSB are said to have reinforced this impression on Putin.
The planning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine then fell more to the FSB than to the military, writes the WSJ. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Chief of Staff Anton Vaino and the head of domestic policy, Sergei Kiriyenko, were not privy to the plans.