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Vladimir Putin’s advisers are scared to tell him the truth about the progress of his Ukraine invasion but the extent of the Russian leader’s “misjudgments” must be “crystal clear to the regime”, Sir Jeremy Fleming has said.
And Mr Fleming warned China not to become “too closely aligned” with the Kremlin.
“It’s clear he [Mr Putin] misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people," he said.
“He underestimated the strength of the coalition his actions would galvanise. He underplayed the economic consequences of the sanctions regime.
"He over-estimated the abilities of his military to secure a rapid victory.
“We’ve seen Russian soldiers, short of weapons and morale, refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft.
“And even though we believe Putin’s advisers are afraid to tell him the truth, what’s going on and the extent of these misjudgments must be crystal clear to the regime.
“It’s become his personal war, with the cost being paid by innocent people in Ukraine and increasingly, by ordinary Russians too."
Speaking at the Australian National University in Canberra, Mr Fleming said western allies were making “deeply secret intelligence” public to get ahead of Mr Putin’s information war, while also tackling cyber threats.
On China, he said the country’s long-term interests were not well served by an alliance with a leader who “wilfully and illegally” ignores the international “rules of the road”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week directly confronted President Xi Jinping over Beijing’s stance on the conflict in Ukraine in a “frank and candid” discussion.