Putin still wants most of Ukraine, war outlook grim -U.S. intelligence chief

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Caspian Summit in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan June 29, 2022. Sputnik/Grigory Sysoyev/Pool via REUTERS

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WASHINGTON, June 29 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin still wants to take most of Ukraine, but his forces are so depleted by the fighting that they are likely to only achieve additional short-term gains , the top US intelligence official said on Wednesday.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, describing the current assessment of US intelligence on the more than four-month-old war, said the consensus of US spy agencies is that it will continue to work ‘for an extended period’ .

“In short, the picture remains quite bleak and Russia’s attitude toward the West is hardening,” Haines told a Commerce Department conference.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinskiy told US President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders this week that he wants the war to be over by the end of the year.

But Haines’ comments suggest that the billions of dollars in modern weaponry supplied by the United States and other countries to Zelinskiy’s forces may not give them the ability to turn the tide against Russia anytime soon.

She said Putin remained determined to invade most of Ukraine, even though Ukrainian forces repelled Russia’s attempt to seize the capital Kyiv in February, forcing Moscow to narrow its aim to seizing the capital. the entire eastern region of Donbass.

“We think he does have the same political goals that we had before, which is he wants to take most of Ukraine,” Haines said.

Russian forces, however, have been so degraded by more than four months of fighting that they are unlikely to achieve Putin’s goal anytime soon, Haines said in his first public assessment of the war since May.

“We perceive a disconnect between Putin’s short-term military goals in this area and the capability of his army, a sort of disconnect between his ambitions and what the army is capable of achieving,” she said. .

Haines said U.S. intelligence agencies are considering three possible scenarios, the most likely being a fierce conflict in which Russian forces “make incremental gains, without breath.”

Other scenarios include a major Russian breakthrough and Ukraine managing to stabilize front lines while making small gains, perhaps near the Russian city of Kherson and other parts of southern Ukraine.

It will take years for Russia to rebuild its forces, she said.

“During this period, we anticipate that they will become more dependent on the asymmetric tools at their disposal, such as cyberattacks, efforts to control energy, even nuclear weapons to try to manage and project power and influence on a global scale,” says Haines.

“In the meantime, it is unlikely that Russian troops will be able to carry out multiple simultaneous operations,” Haines continued.

Putin’s priority now, she said, is to make gains in the Donbass region and collapse Ukrainian forces, a development that Russia says will “collapse resistance from within.” “.

Haines’ comments came after a summit of NATO leaders on Wednesday called Russia “the most direct threat” to the alliance’s security and pledged to modernize forces in Kyiv, saying that she supported their “heroic defense of their country”. Read more

Russia launched what it calls a “special military operation” against Ukraine on February 24 to eliminate what it considered a fascist government that threatened its security.

Ukraine, the United States and other countries say that Russia is waging an unwarranted war of aggression against its neighbor.

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Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; edited by Alistair Bell and Deepa Babington

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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