Earlier, President Joe Biden said in a correspondence with reporters that he could not comment on the intelligence.
The administration hopes the revelations will help prompt Putin to reconsider his options in Ukraine, according to a US official. The official was not authorized to comment and spoke on condition of anonymity. The war led to a bloody stalemate across much of the country, with heavy casualties and a demoralization of Russian forces as Ukrainian troops and volunteers put up an unexpectedly strong defense.
But the propaganda may also risk alienating Putin, who US officials said appears at least in part motivated by a desire to restore Russian prestige lost by the fall of the Soviet Union.
“What it does is confirm that this was a huge strategic mistake for Russia,” Bedingfield said of the intelligence findings. “But I will not describe how … Vladimir Putin might think about this.”
Meanwhile, Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a 55-minute call that an additional $500 million in direct aid to Ukraine was on its way. It is the latest push for US assistance as the Russian invasion continues.
When asked about the latest intelligence, Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken noted that there is a dynamic within the Kremlin where advisers are unwilling to speak to Putin openly.
“One of the weaknesses of the Achilles’ autocracies is that you don’t have people in those regimes who speak truth to power or have the ability to speak truth to power, and I think that’s what we see in Russia,” Blinken said. During a layover in Algeria on Wednesday.
The anonymous official did not provide the basic evidence for how US intelligence made its decision.
The intelligence community concluded that Putin was unaware that his military was using and losing recruits in Ukraine. They also decided that he was not fully aware of the extent to which the Russian economy was affected by the economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.
The official said the findings show a “clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information” to Putin, and show that Putin’s top advisers are “afraid to tell him the truth.”
Biden notified Zelensky about the latest batch of aid during a call in which leaders also reviewed security aid already delivered to Ukraine and the effects the weapons had on the war, according to the White House.
Zelensky lobbied the Biden administration and other Western allies to provide Ukraine with military aircraft, something the United States and other NATO countries have so far been unwilling to confront out of concern that it might lead to Russia’s expansion of the war beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement of $500 million in aid, the Biden administration has sent Ukraine nearly $2 billion in humanitarian and security assistance since the war began last month.
The $13.6 billion Congress approved earlier this month as part of a broader spending bill. Bedingfield said the latest round of financial assistance could be used by the Ukrainian government to “strengthen its economy and pay for budget expenditures” including government salaries and maintaining services.
The Ukrainian presidency website says that Zelensky told Biden: “We need peace, and it will only come when we have a strong position on the battlefield. Our spirits are firm, there is enough determination, but we need your immediate support.”
Zelensky said in a tweet that he also spoke to Biden about new sanctions against Russia. Bedingfield said the administration is considering options to expand and deepen existing sanctions.
The new intelligence came after the White House on Tuesday expressed skepticism about Russia’s public announcement that it would back down from operations near Kyiv in an effort to increase confidence in ongoing talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials in Turkey.
Regional leaders said on Wednesday that Russian forces bombed areas around the Ukrainian capital and another city overnight.
The Pentagon said Wednesday that over the past 24 hours it has seen some Russian forces in areas around Kiev move north toward or toward Belarus.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in interviews with CNN and Fox Business that the United States does not view this as a withdrawal but as an attempt by Russia to resupply, retool, and then reposition forces.
Outside Russia, Putin has long been seen as aloof, surrounded by officials who don’t always tell him the truth. US officials have said publicly that they believe the limited flow of information — perhaps exacerbated by Putin’s increasing isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic — may have given the Russian president unrealistic views of how quickly he can invade Ukraine.
The Biden administration before the war launched an unprecedented effort to publicize what it believed were Putin’s invasion plans, relying on intelligence findings. While Russia was still invading, the White House is widely credited with drawing attention to Ukraine and prompting initially reluctant allies to support harsh sanctions that hurt the Russian economy.
But in his recent testimony before Congress, Lieutenant General Scott Perrier, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in his final testimony before Congress, underscoring the limits of intelligence, that the United States underestimated Ukraine’s will to fight before the invasion.
Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Algiers and Lolita C. Baldur contributed to this report.
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