Putin is managing Russia’s war effort, according to reports

  • Western military officials allege that Vladimir Putin makes low-level military decisions in Ukraine.
  • The Guardian and The Sunday Times reported that the president is dictating troop movements in the Donbas.
  • “That’s not a good way to wage wars,” Simon Miles, a Russia expert, told Insider.

According to media reports, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has become increasingly involved in low-level military strategy amid ongoing Russian failures in Ukraine.

Western military sources this week told The Guardian and The Sunday Times that the Russian president is making operational and tactical decisions.

An official used an Amazon analogy to describe the situation to The Times: “Jeff Bezos doesn’t deliver your packages, he makes strategic decisions.”

In particular, Putin plays an important role in determining troop movements in the Donbas, where Russians have faced several setbacks in the past week after multiple failed attempts to cross a strategic river, sources told media.

The officials also said Putin is still working closely with General Valery Gerasimov, the top commander of the Russian armed forces, despite Ukrainian claims earlier this month that the senior general had been suspended after mounting defeats.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the reports and the British Ministry of Defense did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

According to Simon Miles, an assistant professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and historian of Soviet Union and US-Soviet relations, Western officials who suggest that Putin is “micromanaging Russia’s war effort ” are backed by precedent.

“It’s not uncommon to get top-level tactical-level people involved in the way the Russian military fights,” Miles told Insider. “While in the US context it is (and is pejoratively referred to as ‘micromanaging’).”

According to Miles, it is common for generals of the Russian armed forces to “personally shape events” by escorting their troops directly to the battlefield. Gerasimov himself did so even earlier this month in Izyum. But sending top officials to the front lines is a major reason Russia has lost so many generals since the war started.

Major Russian military decisions must be made through the chain of command, often to a senior officer, before they can be implemented, Miles said. By the time approval is granted, the situation on the ground may look very different.

“That’s not a good way to fight wars,” Miles said. “It’s by far not the most effective military culture, but it helps us understand the poor performance of the Russians on the battlefield.”

Professional soldiers in Western armies are trained to spot opportunities to do their bidding based on shifts in an enemy’s position or readiness, or the contours of a battlefield—critical knowledge lost in a political leader far from the front.

Two days before Putin launched his invasion in late February, the president launched an ominous diatribe denying Ukraine’s sovereignty and sovereignty and falsely claiming that the country is part of Russia’s historic territory.

In the months since Russian forces invaded Ukraine, it has become increasingly apparent that Putin’s personal vendetta against Ukraine and its people played an outrageous role in the outbreak of war.

“I think it is inevitable that [Putin] micromanagement is starting because this is his war,” Miles said. “We know more and more that this whole thing was planned by a very small group, with Putin at the center.”

The Times reported that military sources believe Putin’s crackdown on military operations could contribute to Russia’s failures. But Miles said Russia’s struggles can be traced back even further.

“Yes, the president’s low-level decision-making is probably contributing to tactical failures now, but more importantly, it’s the cause of the massive strategic failure in week one.”

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