- Putin is playing the long game in Ukraine, according to CIA chief Bill Burns.
- “He’s convinced that he can make time work for him,” Burns told House lawmakers.
- Putin still thinks he can win, Burns said, even though the war has been disastrous for Russia.
Between heavy casualties on the battlefield and crippling economic sanctions, the war in Ukraine has been disastrous for Russia. But CIA Director Bill Burns said that Russian President Vladimir Putin remains convinced he can win the fight because he believes that time is on his side.
“I think he’s doubling down,” Burns, a former US ambassador to Russia, said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday. “I believe he’s convinced that he can make time work for him, that he can grind down the Ukrainians through this war of attrition, that he can wear down Western supporters of Ukraine.”
Putin is taking a “longer-term view” and is convinced that “Ukraine matters more to him than to us,” Burns added, underscoring that the West needs to “puncture” that perception.
The conflict in Ukraine has now dragged on for more than a year, and has morphed into a grinding war of attrition in the process. After Russia failed in its initial goal of seizing Kyiv, the war largely shifted to eastern Ukraine and has continued to be the primary battleground ever since. Western intelligence assessments suggest that roughly 60,000 Russians have been killed in the fighting so far — an astonishing toll in comparison to other modern conflicts. Russia has also struggled with equipment problems, losing a staggering number of tanks and armored vehicles and facing a diminishing stockpile of munitions.
But Putin shows no signs of backing down. Russia is continuing its push to seize Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine with a pre-war population of 70,000. Though Russian forces appear to be on the verge of taking the city, it’s widely agreed that Bakhmut’s capture would be little more than a symbolic victory for Moscow. Russia on Thursday also launched a massive missile attack across Ukraine on Thursday. The attack included the use of hypersonic missiles, which the Ukrainian military is unable to shoot down.
As the war rages on, serious questions have been raised as to whether the West has the political will to continue providing vital security aid to Kyiv. Some Republicans in Congress have expressed opposition to providing further assistance to Ukraine, though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have generally offered strong support for the billions in military equipment and other aid the US has provided.
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