Putin 'angry and lashing out at inner circle', US intelligence claims - article for the Telegraph
Concern frustrated Russian leader may turn to further violence as invasion goes wrong
By Justin Huggler Berlin and Nataliya Vasilyeva Moscow - 1 March 2022
Western intelligence suggests Putin's behaviour has changed markedly from the past Credit: Pavel Golovkin /AP
Vladimir Putin is angry and lashing out at his inner circle over Russian military failures in Ukraine and the scale of the international reaction, the US claimed on Tuesday.
American officials told NBC television they have “solid intelligence” of uncharacteristic outbursts of fury from the Russian leader and fear he may resort to even greater violence.
“The main concern is the information he's getting and how isolated he is. The isolation is a really big concern,” an unnamed Western diplomat told NBC. “We don't believe he has a realistic understanding of what's going on.”
“This is somebody that’s clearly been caught off guard by the size of the Ukrainian resistance,” said Senator Mark Warner, who receives classified briefings as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“I do worry that he’s been backed into a corner. I do worry that there is no obvious exit ramp.”
The claims are impossible to verify independently but American intelligence has proved remarkably accurate so far.
Officials told NBC that Western intelligence agencies currently have “good visibility” of Mr Putin and he is not showing signs of mental instability, although his behaviour has changed markedly from the past.
That suggests the West has a source within the Russian leader’s inner circle or some other means of monitoring it.
“He was always hard, cold, disciplined, almost machine-like,” Gen James Clapper, a former US national intelligence director, told Business Insider.
“Now his anger, fury show. His meandering, incoherent rants are illogical and scary. He has no one who can push back and disagree with him.”
There were further signs of Russian anger on Tuesday as Dmitri Medvedev, a close Putin loyalist, threatened war against France.
Mr Medvedev was responding to comments by the French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, who said: “We are going to deliver a total economic and financial war against Russia”.
“Today, some French minister has said that they declared an economic war on Russia. Watch your tongue, gentlemen! And don’t forget that in human history, economic wars quite often turned into real ones,” Mr Medvedev responded on Twitter.
The comment was particularly striking because Mr Medvedev has never been seen as a hawk.
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