CIA Director William Burns said Tuesday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fallen far short of Vladimir Putin’s expectations and that he believes the Russian president is likely to escalate military operations.
“I think Putin is angry and frustrated right now. He’s likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties,” Burns testified before the House Intelligence Committee. “His military planning and assumptions were based on a quick, decisive victory.”
Burns was one of several intelligence chiefs who appeared before the committee’s annual hearing on worldwide threats.
The CIA director said Putin premised his war on four false assumptions: He thought Ukraine was weak, he believed Europe was distracted and wouldn’t mount a strong response, he thought Russia’s economy was prepared to withstand sanctions and he believed Russia’s military had been modernized and would fight effectively.
“He’s been proven wrong on every count,” said Burns, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008.
The CIA director says he now expects Putin to escalate military operations while the Ukrainians will continue to resist fiercely. The likely result, he says, is “an ugly next few weeks” of fighting for control of Ukraine’s cities, including the capital, Kyiv.
“His own military’s performance has been largely ineffective,” Burns said of Putin. “Instead of seizing Kyiv within the first two days of the campaign, which is what his plan was premised upon, after nearly two full weeks they still have not been able to fully encircle the city.”
Reliable casualty figures have been hard to come by. Russia’s Defense Ministry announced last week that 498 Russian soldiers had been killed and nearly 1,600 wounded.
The head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, said his best estimate is that Russian deaths have now risen to between 2,000 and 4,000.
Meanwhile, the director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, said Putin’s longer-term plans for Ukraine are still uncertain.