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Intel leaders predict ‘stalemate’ in Ukraine unless something changes

DIA headquarters expansion at DIAC. (Defense Intelligence Agency/Released)

Battlefield setbacks haven’t changed Vladimir Putin’s strategic goal in Ukraine: to install a Moscow-friendly government in Kyiv, intelligence leaders told lawmakers on Tuesday, adding that the Russian leader sees the military pivot to eastern Ukraine as “only a temporary shift to regain the initiative.”

Unless Russia declares a massive mobilization to add thousands more troops to its current effort “the stalemate is going to gonna last for a while and I don’t see a breakout” on either side, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told lawmkers.

Avril Haines, the director of the Office of National Intelligence, Berrier briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday on major threats facing the United States in the years ahead. Much of the discussion focused on Russia’s war on Ukraine.

On Monday, a senior defense official said that Russian forces in eastern Ukraine weren’t making progress. “They’re falling a lot back on their doctrine which is to shell an area you want, to soak it with artillery, to soften up defense, and then move your ground forces in only when you think they’re able to do that. And the problem for them is that the Ukrainians also have artillery and long-range fires and they now have a lot more of them. And they’re…proving to be resistant to that doctrine.”

On Tuesday, Haines said that losses on the battlefield will “usher in a period of more ad hoc decision-making in Russia, both with respect to the domestic adjustments required as well as the military conflict with Ukraine and the West.” Current trends raise the chances that Putin “will turn to more drastic means, including implementing martial law, reorienting industrial production or potentially escalatory military actions to free up the resources needed to achieve his objectives as the conflict drags on,” she said.

She said Putin is unlikely to resort to nuclear weapons unless he feels that his government is directly threatened, possibly by NATO forces deploying to Ukraine.

Berrier said the war is undermining Russian forces, though not necessarily to the point where they will have to stop fighting in Ukraine. “They’re going to be set back conventionally for a number of years,” he said.


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