Russian intelligence failures led to full-scale invasion of Ukraine


Wagging the Bear:

So certain were FSB operatives that they would soon control the levers of power in Kyiv, according to Ukrainian and Western security officials, that they spent the waning days before the war arranging safe houses or accommodations in informants’ apartments and other locations for the planned influx of personnel.

The humiliations of Russia’s military have largely overshadowed the failures of the FSB and other intelligence agencies. But in some ways, these have been even more incomprehensible and consequential, officials said, underpinning nearly every Kremlin war decision.

Those military failures were (in a large part) brought about by the FSB and GRU, who had sold a fantasy to both Putin and his generals:

Extensive polls conducted for the FSB show that large segments of Ukraine’s population were prepared to resist Russian encroachment, and that any expectation that Russian forces would be greeted as liberators was unfounded. Even so, officials said, the FSB continued to feed the Kremlin rosy assessments that Ukraine’s masses would welcome the arrival of Russia’s military and the restoration of Moscow-friendly rule.

“There was plenty of wishful thinking in the GRU and the military, but it started with the FSB,” said a senior Western security official, using the GRU abbreviation for Russia’s main military intelligence agency. “The sense that there would be flowers strewn in their path — that was an FSB exercise.” He and other security officials in Ukraine, the United States and Europe spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

When I was in college in the mid-1980's, I wrote a couple of extensive research papers on Russian intelligence operations. The fact that there was quite a bit of good information about the subject even back then tells you something about the gross incompetence of those units. When Stan Levchenko (KGB Major) defected in 1979, the reason why he was forced to that decision is a prime example. Understand, he was really good at his job (undercover as a journalist), and he had not only developed a solid asset network, but he was also moving up in society, gaining access to more and more powerful people. Smooth as Jiffy peanut butter.

But one day he got an assignment to introduce some disinformation via his journalism job, and it would have blown his cover completely. Some nonsense about an American plot to dress up US military as Arab terrorists, who would attack a (civilian) cruise ship and kill a bunch of people. He told those idiots back in Moscow it wouldn't work, nobody would believe it, and all the work he had done up to that point would be lost (including his human assets), but they loved their stupid little plan. It was just the final straw for Levchenko, but you get the picture. And apparently the FSB is just as incompetent as its predecessor:

Adhering to these erroneous assumptions, officials said, the FSB championed a war plan premised on the idea that a lightning assault on Kyiv would topple the government in a matter of days. Zelensky would be dead, captured or in exile, creating a political vacuum for FSB agents to fill.

Instead, FSB operatives who at one point had reached the outskirts of Kyiv had to retreat alongside Russian forces, Ukrainian security officials said. Rather than presiding over the formation of a new government in Kyiv, officials said, the FSB now faces difficult questions in Moscow about what its long history of operations against Ukraine — and the large sums that financed them — accomplished.

Regardless of their bad intel, the Russian military was doomed to fail anyway. You simply cannot field an effective military in the absence of a strong non-commissioned officer (NCO) structure. And I'm not just saying that because I used to be one, it is critical in both the implementation of mission objectives and adapting to new situations (not planned for) on the ground. Without those links in the chain of command, you are well and truly screwed. Write that down...