Washington (The Times Groupe)- After the end of May, the intelligence community produced its fourth comprehensive assessment of Vladimir Putin’s health. According to three U.S. intelligence leaders who have read the classified reports, Putin seems to have reemerged after receiving treatment for advanced cancer in April.
There was also an assassination attempt on Putin’s life in March, the officials told the Newsweek.
These officials, who represent three separate intelligence agencies, are concerned that Putin is becoming more paranoid about his hold on power, which could cause a rocky and unpredictable outcome in Ukraine. Yet it also reduces the likelihood of nuclear war, they say.
One of the senior intelligence officers with direct access to the reports says, “Putin’s grip is strong but not absolute.” “The political jockeying inside the Kremlin has never been so intense during his rule.”
The three officials-one from the office of the Director of National Intelligence, one from the Defense Intelligence Agency, and one from the Air Force-state that Putin’s isolation makes it more difficult for U.S. intelligence agencies to assess the Russian leader’s status and health.
“We know there is an iceberg out there, although it is covered in fog,” says the DNI leader, who spoke with Newsweek via email and asked to remain anonymous to discuss sensitive topics.
The DIA official says “a source of our best intelligence, which is contact with outsiders, dried up as a result of the Ukraine war.” DIA official says “Putin has had few meetings with foreign leaders,” cutting off insights that can be gained in face-to-face meetings. “Putin’s isolation has therefore increased speculation levels.”
“We need to keep our eyes open for the influence of wishful thinking,” warns the retired Air Force leader. “That lesson was learned the hard way by Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.”
Meanwhile, other Russian officials are angling for power in the Kremlin, sensing that Putin is near the end of his time, one of the officials said.
A “Russian plot” was uncovered by Kremlin security, the report said, without providing further details.
Furthermore, the CIA and other countries’ intelligence agencies have heard reports of discontent in Russia’s security ministries and that some Russian diplomats want to defect to Western countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has appeared frail in recent public appearances.
A weakened Putin would have less influence over his subordinates and may be less likely to order the use of nuclear weapons even if he decided to do so.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has already dismissed any rumors that Putin is ill.
In their attempt to seize Ukraine’s east, Russian forces pounded the Donbas region on Friday, marking the 100th day of the invasion.
On Wednesday, Ukraine said that Russia controls around 20 percent of its territory, including Crimea and parts of Donbas seized in 2014.
Having been driven from around the capital, Putin’s troops have set their sights on capturing eastern Ukraine, causing dire warnings that the conflict could drag on for months.
The Russian invasion of its neighbor has killed thousands and forced millions to flee, with the east of Ukraine bearing the brunt of the assault.
Meantime, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Kyiv’s forces are losing up to 100 soldiers a day.