Speed Reads

'Yes, he would'

Putin is frustrated and uncharacteristically angry over Ukraine setbacks, U.S. intelligence warns

"U.S. intelligence agencies have determined that Russian President Vladimir Putin is growing increasingly frustrated by his military struggles in Ukraine, and may see his only option as doubling down on violence," NBC News reports, citing current and former U.S. officials. While there's no evidence he is mentally unstable, "the U.S. has solid intelligence that Putin is frustrated and expressing unusual bursts of anger at people in his inner circle."

Putin, a former Russian intelligence officer, typically keeps his emotions in check. But the Ukraine invasion is not going well for him, for reasons The Guardian's Shaun Walker summarizes. 

"Putin is usually more cynical and calculated than he came across in his most recent speeches," former U.S. national security official and longtime Putin expert Fiona Hill tells Politico in a long, bracing interview. "There's evident visceral emotion in things that he said in the past few weeks justifying the war in Ukraine." This "visceral emotion is unhealthy and extraordinarily dangerous because there are few checks and balances around Putin," she adds, and unless he's stopped, he will settle for nothing less than a total conquest of Ukraine, by whatever means necessary — even nuclear weapons.

"The thing about Putin is, if he has an instrument, he wants to use it," Hill said. "So if anybody thinks that Putin wouldn't use something that he's got that is unusual and cruel, think again. Every time you think, 'No, he wouldn't, would he?' Well, yes, he would. And he wants us to know that, of course. It's not that we should be intimidated and scared. That's exactly what he wants us to be. We have to prepare for those contingencies and figure out what is it that we're going to do to head them off."

There is a 40-mile-long convoy of Russian military vehicles descending on Kyiv, and Russia is raining missiles down on Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. But "the Russian army is overextended and in a precarious position if Ukraine becomes a protracted war," writes Seth Jones at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. John Spencer, chair of the Urban Warfare Studies program at West Point, told Reuters what Russia has done wrong.

"Putin's remaining options are all unattractive and risky," NBC News reports, and experts are concerned he will turn to indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, as he did in Syria and the 1999-2000 Chechen War that decimated Grozny but helped elevate Putin to power.