Russian forces are unlikely to be able to mount a significant offensive operation this year – even if the planned Ukrainian counteroffensive does not fully succeed, the country’s top intelligence official told lawmakers on Thursday.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said the Russian military gained less territory in April than in any of the previous three months, and faced “significant shortages” of ammunition and personnel constraints.
“In fact, if Russia does not initiate a mandatory mobilization and secure significant third-party ammunition supplies beyond existing supplies from Iran and others, it will be increasingly difficult for them to sustain even modest offensive operations,” Haines said.
She added that the conflict remains a “brutal war of attrition”, with daily fighting in eastern Ukraine over “hundreds of meters”, and neither side is showing a definite advantage.
According to US assessments, Haines said, Russian President Vladimir Putin “has probably scaled down his immediate ambitions” to consolidate control of territory already occupied in the east and south of the country and to ensure that Ukraine does not join not the NATO alliance.
To the extent the Russian leader would consider a negotiated pause in the fighting, it would likely be based on his assessment that a pause would provide “respite” for Russian forces, who would rebuild and resume offensive operations “at some point in the future. ,” Haines said, potentially amid declining Western interest in the conflict.
But, the intelligence chief said, the prospect of Russian concessions in any negotiations this year “will be dim unless domestic political vulnerabilities alter [Putin’s] thought.”
Haines and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, who also testified at the hearing, said Russian ground forces had been significantly degraded and, by some estimates, could take between five and ten years to rebuild.
“I think they’ve had a setback in the ground forces,” Berrier said, but they’re still “very, very capable in their strategic forces.”
Russia’s loss of conventional military strength could make it more dependent on cyber, space and nuclear capabilities, as well as support from China, Haines said. Both witnesses recognized a deepening relationship between Moscow and Beijing.
Despite the recent accusations by Moscow that Ukraine, with U.S. support, attempted to assassinate Putin in a drone attack on the Kremlin – a claim immediately and strongly denied by U.S. and Ukrainian officials – Haines said the Current assessment by the intelligence community was “highly unlikely”. “Putin would resort to the use of nuclear weapons.
She said the United States is still investigating the drone incident. “At this stage, we don’t have information that would allow us to provide an independent assessment” of the Kremlin’s claims, she told the committee.
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