Putin ‘misjudged’ Russian troops capabilities, says top spy chief – ‘Overestimated’

David Cameron recalls his dealings with Vladimir Putin

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In a speech given in Australia, Sir Jeremy Fleming, said Putin’s advisers are “afraid to tell him the truth” about the extent of his error. The head of Britain’s GCHQ intelligence service said: “It all adds up to the strategic miscalculation that western leaders warned Putin it would be.

“It’s become his personal war, with the cost being paid by innocent people in Ukraine and, increasingly, by ordinary Russians too.”

This is not the first time that Western officials have warned about Putin’s miscalculations.

Earlier, US officials made a similar point, arguing Putin was being misled by advisers who were too scared to tell him how poorly the war in Ukraine is going and how damaging Western sanctions have been.

Mr Fleming set out in his speech a list of problems facing Russian forces, including low morale, logistical failures and high casualties.

He said: “Their command and control is in chaos.

“Even though we believe Putin’s advisers are afraid to tell him the truth, the extent of these misjudgments must be crystal clear to the regime. It’s become his personal war.”

The spy chief also warned China not to become “too closely aligned” with Russia as the war continues, the latest in a string of remarks by western leaders and officials aimed at trying to persuade Beijing not to supply Moscow with money and arms.

Officials in Washington said that Putin “didn’t even know his military was using and losing conscripts . . . showing a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information”.

One told CNN: “We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military.

“There is now persistent tension between Putin and the [Russian Ministry of Defence].”

John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said: “If [Putin] is not fully informed of how poorly he’s doing, then how are his negotiators going to come up with an agreement?

“The other thing is, you don’t know how a leader like that is going to react to getting bad news . . . it’s disconcerting.”

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Mr Fleming said that Putin had made a clear “strategic choice” to align with China before the fighting broke out, but that there remained underlying tensions between the two countries – and risks for both in trying to work together.

He said: “Russia understands that, long term, China will become increasingly strong militarily and economically.

“Some of their interests conflict; Russia could be squeezed out of the equation.

“And it is equally clear that a China that wants to set the rules of the road.

“The norms for new global governance is not well served by close alliance with a regime that wilfully and illegally ignores them all.”

The speech at the Australian National University in Canberra comes after Downing Street said Boris Johnson had a “frank and candid” discussion with China’s President Xi Jinping last week.

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