Russia nearly won its war in Ukraine before its military plans fell apart, according to a Danish intelligence officer.
In an interview with Danish newspaper Berlingske, the head of Russian analysis for Danish intelligence agency Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE)—identified by only his first name, Joakim—said Danish officials initially believed Russia would take over Ukraine in only two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the “special military operation.”
More than 10 months later, Russia is continuing to try to make up for mounting losses in Ukraine, which responded to the invasion with a stronger than anticipated defense effort that was significantly bolstered by military aid from Western allies. Meanwhile, the invasion has exposed weaknesses in Putin’s military, despite its much larger size.
In the early weeks of the invasion, Joakim said, “they were close” to winning the war, but poor decision-making from the Kremlin cost Russia its expected quick victory. He pointed to Putin’s ideological convictions, rather than poor intelligence, as the main reason for Russia’s failures, according to the interview.
Above, an image shows marching Russian military cadets alongside an inset of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia nearly won the Ukraine war before a series of military failures that allowed Ukraine to retake occupied territory, according to a Danish intelligence officer.
OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images; Contributor/Getty Images
“We put a lot of the blame for this on Putin’s shoulders,” he said. For instance, he cited decision-making among a small group of his allies that was not shared with others until the “last minute,” saying that caused confusion among the troops. Labeling the invasion a special military operation rather than a war also backfired, as only certain troops could engage in combat until Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists in September.
“These are pretty small factors that ended up deciding the outcome,” Joakim said.
He added that he believes Putin is still interfering in the military’s conduct of the war. He described a recent meeting with his military leaders in December as “the worst idea in the world.”
“He has a general to lead this war. So he shouldn’t be sitting there getting input from all these other generals,” he told the Danish newspaper. He also said he doubts that Russia will be able to launch a winter offensive because of its poorly equipped troops.
The newspaper’s report comes as Putin is facing criticism over his military’s failure to achieve significant goals in the Ukraine war, which has claimed more than 100,000 Russian troops. In the fall, the Ukrainians reclaimed thousands of square miles of previously occupied territory.
Still, Russia had some success in the early weeks of the war, quickly taking regions in the southeastern region of the country. Putin’s troops also made substantial progress in areas around Kyiv, where they have faced accusations of committing human rights abuses and war crimes against civilians.
Joakim told Berlingske that efforts near Kyiv soured after they failed to defeat Ukrainian air defenses to deliver more troops to the region.
A December report from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) found that, amid growing criticism, Putin canceled a parliamentary address as he struggles to sell his narrative on the war.
In addition, he reportedly canceled a press conference “to avoid answering questions about Russia’s military failures without resorting to excessively obvious manipulation of questioners and questions,” according to the ISW.