Speed Reads

Psychological War

White House says it's not 'trolling' Putin to point out his Ukraine invasion is 'a strategic disaster'

The U.S. and Britain disclosed intelligence Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is isolated and being misled by his military advisers about a demoralized Russian military's obviously bungled military operation in Ukraine. These pronouncements continued Thursday.

"President Putin is not the force he used to be. He is now a man in a cage he built himself," in a "lesser country" he created, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News. "His army is exhausted, he has suffered significant losses. The reputation of this great army of Russia has been trashed. He has not only got to live with the consequences of what he is doing to Ukraine, but he has also got to live with the consequences of what he has done to his own army."

Russia's goal to "take the whole of Ukraine" has fallen apart, and while the next few weeks "will continue to be very difficult" for Ukraine, "in many ways, Putin has already lost," British military chief Adm. Tony Radakin said Thursday at a think-tank seminar in London. "Far from being the far-sighted manipulator of events that he would have us believe, Putin has damaged himself through a series of catastrophic misjudgements." 

A reporter on Thursday told White House communications director Kate Bedingfield that with all these comments about Russia's failure, "it certainly seems like you're needling and trolling Vladimir Putin here." "Those are your words, not ours," Bedingfield said. The U.S. is open about its objective, to help Ukraine, and "we have seen incontrovertible evidence that this has been a strategic disaster for Russia."

BBC World News host Laura Trevelyan said the sharing of intelligence on Putin "is almost like trash-talk," and former CIA officer John Sipher responded that the U.S. and Britain are "trying to play to Putin's paranoia, it's trying to convince him that, you know, we have insight into what's happening there, he's being misled," but their intelligence "is probably true" and "probably selective."

Putin, an expert in psychological warfare, "is now effectively taking a dose of his own medicine," CNN's Stephen Collinson argues. "The remarkable detail of the declassified intelligence assessments must also be especially galling to Putin, a former KGB officer and intelligence chief," and the idea "Western intelligence agencies have the capacity to see deep into the Kremlin's war effort and internal politics" would "infuriate the Russian leader and could open further cracks in his regime."