In a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, a Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, said that the Defense Department believed that Mr. Putin has not had access to an accurate account of his army’s failures in Ukraine.
“We would concur with the conclusion that Mr. Putin has not been fully informed by his Ministry of Defense, at every turn over the last month,” Mr. Kirby said.
“If Mr. Putin is misinformed or uninformed about what’s going on inside Ukraine, it’s his military, it’s his war, he chose it,” Mr. Kirby said. “And so the fact that he may not have all the context — that he may not fully understand the degree to which his forces are failing in Ukraine, that’s a little discomforting, to be honest with you.”
Other American officials have said that Mr. Putin’s rigid isolation during the pandemic and willingness to publicly rebuke advisers who do not share his views have created a degree of wariness, or even fear, in senior ranks of the Russian military. Officials believe that Mr. Putin has been getting incomplete or overly optimistic reports about the progress of Russian forces, creating mistrust with his military advisers.
Mr. Putin seemed genuinely unaware that the Russian military had been using conscripts in Ukraine, and that drafted soldiers were among those killed in action, according to the U.S. officials. Mr. Putin’s ignorance showed “a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information to the Russian president,” according to a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the declassified, but still sensitive, material. There “is now persistent tension” between Mr. Putin and the Defense Ministry, the official said.