On Tuesday, U.S. director of national intelligence Avril D. Haines said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals in Ukraine the war remained broad. This included the expansion of the fighting beyond the Donbas region as well as the creation of a land bridge to Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniestria along the Black Sea.
However, she told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Russians would doubtlessly struggle. The struggle may amount to even more without a large-scale mobilization of reserve forces or submitting a new draft.
Haines told the Senate committee that Putin’s goals hadn’t changed. It is expected that the next two months of fighting will be critical despite the failure to capture Kyiv in the early stages of the war. She also said that Putin believes Russia can withstand the challenges of war much more so than the nations of the West.
“We assess President Putin is preparing for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas,” Haines said.
“We assess that Putin’s strategic goals have probably not changed, suggesting he regards the decision in late March to refocus Russian forces on the Donbas is only a temporary shift to regain the initiative after the Russian military’s failure to capture Kyiv,” she added in testimony to the committee.
“Combined with the reality that Putin faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia’s current conventional military capabilities … the next few months could see us moving along a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory,” Haines said.
Fighting Will Expand Beyond the Donbas:
Also speaking to the Armed Services Committee with Haines was Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He stated that the war in the Donbas has reached somewhat of an impasse.
“The Russians aren’t winning, and the Ukrainians aren’t winning, and we’re at a bit of a stalemate here,” he said.
After suffering terrible casualties in the early weeks of the war, Putin shifted the focus of the war to the Donbas and the separatist-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. But US intelligence believes those refocused efforts are just temporary. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also believes that if the Russians capture the Donbas, they will once again move on Kharkiv and Kyiv.
Nuclear Option Remote, But Still On the Table For Moscow:
One of the other talking points that Haines spoke to the Armed Services Committee about was the use of nuclear weapons, something Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have threatened NATO and the West with several times.
Both Berrier and Haines stated that they don’t anticipate Russia using a tactical nuclear weapon. However, Haines did say that it would not be ruled out if Putin felt that Russia was facing an existential threat.
The nuclear threat that Moscow is constantly bandying about is an attempt to deter the U.S. and other Western nations from providing Ukraine with more arms, ammunition, and supplies.
Both of them also believe that a diplomatic solution is not forthcoming as both the Ukrainians and Russians believe that they can make gains militarily. Haines said Washington “will remain vigilant and monitor every aspect of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.”
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO, and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and for another military news organization, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for more than 10 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.