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Putin prepared for prolonged conflict in Ukraine, US intelligence director says

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing for a long conflict in Ukraine, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told lawmakers on May 10.

“We assess President Putin is preparing for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas,” Haines told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

There are indications Russia wants to extend a land bridge to Transdniester, the breakaway region in Moldova, she said in her testimony before the committee.

She added that Putin is counting on Western resolve to weaken over time and said that victory in the Donbas might not end the war.

“Putin most likely also judges that Russia has a greater ability and willingness to endure challenges than his adversaries, and he is probably counting on U.S. and EU resolve to weaken as food shortages, inflation, and energy prices get worse,” Haines said.

Haines also told the committee that Putin is expected to become more unpredictable and could order martial law in Russia.

“The current trend increases the likelihood that President Putin will turn to more drastic means, including imposing martial law, reorienting industrial production, or potentially escalatory military options to free up the resources needed to achieve his objectives,” she said.

Haines said Putin is not likely to order the use of nuclear weapons unless the Russian homeland faces an “existential threat.” But she also said Putin’s actions could become more unpredictable.

“Combined with the reality that Putin faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia’s current conventional military capabilities, [this] likely means the next few months could see us moving along a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory,” Haines added.

Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, who also testified before the committee, said Russia has resorted to indiscriminate and brutal methods in response to Ukrainian resistance.

He said the United States estimates that between eight and 10 Russian generals have been killed in the war.

He also told the committee that neither side currently is winning.