- Top Russian military leaders will likely start hiding information from Putin out of self-preservation, a Russia researcher wrote for NYT.
- Those generals are “now even more dependent on Mr. Putin for their safety and positions,” she added.
- Indeed, as Russia is at a critical point in its war against Ukraine, Russian military officials have shown more interest in sniping at each other.
Russian military leaders will likely start concealing bad news about the war in Ukraine from the Russian president because they are increasingly concerned about their own safety.
That’s according to Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation who focuses on Russia.
“In this atmosphere of suspicion and uncertainty, where prominent generals disappear and Mr. Putin is quick to blame traitors, self-censorship among top military leaders is likely to become more prevalent,” Massicot wrote in a New York Times op-ed.
She added that Russia’s defense minister and a top general — both of whom have found themselves in hot water at various times in the war, especially in recent months — are “now even more dependent on Mr. Putin for their safety and positions,” and “could be more likely to hide or soften bad news from the battlefield to keep his confidence.”
And that could hinder Putin from getting a detailed and accurate picture of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
Kyiv’s slog against Russian defenses has been hitting a wall, as minefields and other threats slow progress along the front lines. But increased aid from the US and NATO allies is giving Ukraine additional tools to help its advance, such as cluster munitions, mine-clearing capabilities, and long-range stand-off weapons like Storm Shadow missiles.
If Ukraine can achieve a breakthrough, it would, obviously, spell trouble for Russian forces. But even if the counteroffensive fails to shatter Russian lines, Russia is expending munitions and personnel that would be essential for the army to go back on the offensive.
But even though Russia is at a critical juncture in its war against Ukraine and the Russian army continues racking up losses, Russian military leaders have focused more on sniping at one another.
An irregular commander who launched a mutiny is in exile. A recently sacked general accused Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, of treason, and another front-line general has reportedly been dismissed. A top general with connections to the Wagner mercenary group was also reportedly detained in the wake of the group’s rebellion against senior military officials.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, most famous now for his failed mutiny and subsequent exile, resurfaced in a new video posted Wednesday, in which he criticized Putin’s war in Ukraine as “a disgrace” despite the Kremlin’s efforts to silence him.
Meanwhile, Shoigu and Gerasimov — both of whom Prigozhin frequently lambasted over their Ukraine strategy — have been “retained by Mr. Putin for their loyalty,” Massicot wrote, adding that they’re “now even more likely to suppress negative information and present a distorted image of the war.”
But there is a significant risk in that approach, she said. “For the sake of familiarity, the Kremlin has chosen to reinforce failure.”