Appearances are deceiving, as Russia digs deeper into its soviet era materiel stocks and has diminishing combat power. The Donbas could be the best they can achieve in terms of annexation, but the question remains whether this war can lead to a peace with pre-2014 borders.
WASHINGTON, June 29 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin still wants to seize most of Ukraine, but his forces are so degraded by combat that they likely can only achieve incremental gains in the near term, the top U.S. intelligence officer said Wednesday.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, outlining the current U.S. intelligence assessment of the more than four-month war, said that the consensus of U.S. spy agencies is that it will grind on "for an extended period of time."
"In short, the picture remains pretty grim and Russia's attitude toward the West is hardening," Haines told a Commerce Department conference.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinskiy this week told U.S. President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders that he wants the war over by the end of the year.
But Haines' comments suggested that the billions of dollars in modern arms being supplied by the United States and other countries to Zelinskiy's forces may not give them the ability to turn the tide against Russia any time soon.
"We think he has effectively the same political goals that we had previously, which is to say that he wants to take most of Ukraine," Haines said.
Russian forces, however, have been so degraded by more than four months of combat that it is unlikely they can achieve Putin's goal any time soon, Haines said in her first public assessment of the war since May.
"We perceive a disconnect between Putin's near-term military objectives in this area and his military's capacity, a kind of mismatch between his ambitions and what the military is able to accomplish," she said.
Haines said U.S. intelligence agencies see three possible scenarios, the most likely being a grinding conflict in which Russian forces "make incremental gains, with no breathrough."
The other scenarios include a major Russian breakthrough and Ukraine succeeding in stabilizing the frontlines while achieving small gains, perhaps near the Russian-held city of Kherson and other areas of southern Ukraine.
It will take years for Russia to rebuild its forces, she said.
"During this period, we anticipate that they're going to be more reliant on asymmetric tools that they have, such as cyber attacks, efforts to control energy, even nuclear weapons in order to try to manage and project power and influence globally," Haines said.
Haines' comments came after a summit of NATO leaders on Wednesday branded Russia the most "direct threat" to alliance security and vowed to modernize Kyiv's forces, saying it stood behind their "heroic defense of their country." read more
MADRID/KYIV, June 29 (Reuters) - NATO on Wednesday branded Russia the biggest "direct threat" to Western security after its invasion of Ukraine and agreed plans to modernise Kyiv's beleaguered armed forces, saying it stood fully behind Ukrainians' "heroic defence of their country".
At a summit dominated by the invasion and the geopolitical upheaval it has caused, NATO also invited Sweden and Finland to join and pledged a seven-fold increase from 2023 in combat forces on high alert along its eastern flank against any future Russian attack.
In reaction, President Vladimir Putin said Russia would respond in kind if NATO set up infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they join the U.S.-led military alliance. read more
Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying he could not rule out that tensions would emerge in Moscow's relations with Helsinki and Stockholm over their joining NATO.
U.S. President Joe Biden announced more land, sea and air force deployments across Europe from Spain in the west to Romania and Poland bordering Ukraine.
These included a permanent army headquarters with accompanying battalion in Poland - the first full-time U.S. deployment on NATO's eastern fringes. read more
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