Putin has been ignoring his generals and directing the war himself, analysts say — and has been surprisingly cautious

  • Putin is largely ignoring the expertise of his military advisors, US analysts said in a report. 

  • Instead, he is making most of the key decisions on his own, they said.

  • The experts at the RAND Corporation said Putin has proved more cautious than many expected.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is making key decisions about the Ukraine war largely on his own, without input from his generals, analysts said in a report published last week.

But while doing so, Putin has proven to be more cautious than expected, said the report from the US-based RAND Corporation.

"Putin [is] making key decisions largely on his own without substantial influence from the Russian General Staff," the analysts said in the report.

RAND said that was simply because Putin does not trust those around him — and so makes "little use of economic or military expertise" at his disposal.

Western analysts have previously said that Russian military leaders, including Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu, are likely concealing bad news about the war from Putin because they are increasingly concerned about the consequences for themselves.

Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation who focuses on Russia, wrote in a New York Times op-ed in July that there is an "atmosphere of suspicion and uncertainty" in the Kremlin.

She wrote that Putin is "quick to blame traitors " and "self-censorship among top military leaders is likely to become more prevalent."

The RAND report said that, even in his isolation, Putin has been less eager than it thought to confront NATO, even as it continues to support Ukraine.

But this does not mean that he will continue to do so in future, it cautioned.

"If Russian territorial, personnel, and materiel losses continue to mount without improvements on the battlefield, he will face a set of unpalatable choices, including negotiations from a position of weakness, more extensive and potentially destabilizing mobilizations, or more draconian attempts to ensure internal control," it said.

Putin has made a series of threatening remarks before but has not acted on any of his more serious ones.

When he first launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Putin said that if other countries attempted to intervene they would face "consequences they have never seen," per the Associated Press.

Despite this, Western countries have provided billions of dollars of equipment to Ukraine, including steadily expanding its capabilities with aid including advanced Western tanks, artillery, and cruise missiles.

During a speech in July, Putin said there was a "serious danger" of NATO being drawn further into the Ukraine war if members of the alliance kept supplying weapons — though as of September there had been no obvious new consequence for the West.

Putin also mentioned Russia's large number of nuclear weapons, saying they would "guarantee" its security, CNN reported.

While Putin and other Russian officials have repeatedly gestured towards its nuclear arsenal, Western officials have reported no signs that Russia is making any serious preparation to use it.

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