It turns out President Vladimir Putin is not the super genius he paints himself to be. Instead, he's just another micromanaging boss who can't accept he's wrong.
Western military analysts are struggling to make sense of Russia's comprehensive failure in Ukraine. Its mistakes have been basic. There have been fundamental holes in its preparations and planning.
There's only one possible explanation left for this state of affairs: Vladimir Putin himself.
After crippling his forces' ability to prepare for the war with extreme secrecy and a web of lies aimed at deceiving the West, the President's growing frustration is leading to direct intervention in small-scale operational and tactical decisions.
In other words, he's taking control himself.
That's not how it's supposed to happen.
Supreme commanders are supposed to ensure everything is in place for the success of their subordinates. Theirs is the role of setting political objectives, preparing logistics – and unleashing those trained at completing their specific tasks.
Putin's policies are supposed to be put into effect by General Valery Gerasimov, only appointed as supreme commander of the Ukraine invasion a month ago.
But the chain of command appears to have become largely irrelevant.
"We think Putin and Gerasimov are involved in tactical decision-making at a level we would normally expect to be taken by a colonel or a brigadier," an anonymous military source told The Times. And that's been leading to a string of disasters – including the disastrous attempt to build pontoon bridges to allow tanks to cross the Siverskyi Donets River.
Duke University Russia researcher Professor Simon Miles says such "micromanaging" was to be expected in a military averse to individual innovation or initiative.
"That is not a good way to fight wars.
"It's not the most combat-effective military culture by a long shot, but it helps us understand the Russians' poor battlefield performance."
Living in a bubble
"The sad fact of the matter from our perspective is that Putin doesn't think anything has gone wrong," says former Russia advisor to the US National Security Council Fiona Hill. "I know that might sound absolutely bizarre because we can say that if he declares victory now, it's very much a Pyrrhic victory."
Hill says Putin's interventions are based on his experience as a KGB operative and commander. He's always looking to adapt to the situation on the ground.
"As far as Putin is concerned, he'll find a way to still meet his goals," she told a Chicago Council on Global Affairs event earlier this week.
But he may not be up to the task.
The defeat of his forces attempting to cross the Donbas river caused even Russian military bloggers to criticise command decisions.
Hill said the Covid-19 pandemic had caused Putin "more isolation than normal". That left him even more reliant on advisers who were extremely reluctant to pass on any bad news.
"He sees himself as a tsar. He sees himself as reclaiming and regaining Russia," Hill said. "He's in a bubble."
That bubble, says German minister of state Tobias Linder, is only getting worse.
"Putin has gotten more isolated over the past years already, and maybe that will continue. He's very alone. And he only seems to care about his place and Russia's place in history. And that's one of the reasons why this war of aggression goes beyond Ukraine."
It's a sentiment echoed by Hill.
"This is a war about history," she said. "Basically, Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukraine because Ukraine has not comported with his view of Russian history."
That, says Linder, is a sign of things to come.
"Russia will remain that Russia under Putin, at least for how long he is in power."
Western soldiers have been retraining Ukraine's ex-soviet military since Russia seized Crimea in 2014. Central to this has been placing trust in field commanders to act immediately based on personal knowledge of the battlefield.
Trust, however, is not part of the Kremlin's vocabulary.
And Putin may believe he's a tactical expert. "I received the rank of lieutenant as an artilleryman, as the commander of a howitzer artillery battalion," he is recorded saying in a Kremlin propaganda video.
But technology and tactics have changed immensely since the Soviet era.
"Yes, the President's low-level decision-making is probably contributing to tactical failures now. But, more importantly, it is the cause of the massive strategic failure in week one," Miles told Insider.
The Ukraine invasion has been Putin's pet project from the outset. He allowed only a tiny group of his most trusted insiders in on the plan – even after the troop build-up became largely obvious to the West a year ago. So much so that, the day the war was announced, many of his field officers still thought they were taking part in war games.
Generals assigned responsibility for individual fronts of the invasion had to improvise on the fly. And the culture of refusing to act without command approval has resulted in at least 12 being killed as they tried to get confused and demoralised troops moving again.
Putin's failed to reach his military objectives of Kyiv and Odesa. Thousands of troops, hundreds of tanks and dozens of combat aircraft have been lost in the process.
Now the Kremlin's "Plan B" of seizing the Donbas region appears to be in disarray despite the fall of the city of Mariupol's last stronghold. Elsewhere, Russian troops have been pushed back to their own border.