Russian President Vladimir Putin has been "surprised" by his military’s lack of performance and the Russia-Ukraine War, "and the fact that they did not accomplish more," according to the head of U.S. Intelligence.
Although the U.S. believes Putin is becoming more informed about the problems his army faces in Ukraine, it's not clear “that he has a full picture at this stage of just how challenged they are,” said Avril Haines, the Director of National Intelligence, who spoke at a defense forum on Dec. 3, 2022.
The intelligence community sees “shortages of ammunition, poor morale, supply issues, logistics –a whole series of concerns that they’re facing,” Haines said.
Putin has suffered a trifecta of heavy setbacks during his invasion of Ukraine, politically, economically and on the battlefield, but U.S. Intelligence doesn’t see evidence that Putin has changed his political objectives.
“He doesn’t see Ukraine, and of course, he says this publicly on a pretty regular basis, as a separate country. He sees it part of, in effect, his sovereign national ambit,” Haines told NBC journalist Andrea Mitchell during an interview at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California.
Russia’s Military Setbacks
While Putin’s intentions may not be wavering, protests in Russia have been on the rise. The worsening economic situation in the country due to hefty U.S. and European sanctions, along with increasing dissent among Russian politicians, elites and oligarchs, have put Putin under political pressure.
Meanwhile, Moscow’s losses on the battlefield, in terms of troops, equipment and ammunition have amounted to a “reduced tempo” in the conflict in Ukraine and U.S. Intelligence expects the war to continue to tone down over the coming months.
Although the conflict is likely to ratchet up again in the spring, Putin may be willing to “downscale what it is that he’s willing to accept for now,” Haines said, partly due to how fast Russia is depleting its ammunition.
“It’s really pretty extraordinary,” Haines told Mitchell when asked how quickly Russia is going through its ammunition stockpiles, “our own sense is that they are not capable of indigenously producing what they are expending at this stage, so that is going to be a challenge and that is why you see them going to other countries, effectively, to get ammunition.”
Despite attempting to increase its stockpiles by importing weapons and ammunition from countries such as Iran and North Korea, Russia’s military has weakened, which has resulted in its troops being forced from regions it occupied at the start of the war. Most recently, the Russians have been forced to retreat from some illegally annexed regions of Kharkiv Obalst, Kherson Oblast and from parts of the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine.
Originally published on Dec. 13, 2022.
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