- Russia is not expected to make any major territorial gains in Ukraine after suffering numerous battlefield setbacks, according to the U.S. intelligence community.
- An intelligence report warned that the conflict in Ukraine could escalate and potentially lead to a direct clash between Russia and the West.
- Russia’s military failures could potentially hurt Putin’s domestic standing and trigger additional escalatory actions.
The top intelligence official of the U.S. on Wednesday said Russia’s military is not expected to make any significant territorial gains in Ukraine after numerous battlefield setbacks.
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines provided the evaluation during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about her office’s annual threat assessment report.
Haines’ remarks come as Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s military continues to engage in fierce fighting in Ukraine more than a year after he ordered invasion of the country. On Tuesday, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) released an assessment on Russia’s military that was similar to Haines’. The think tank wrote that if Putin’s troops capture Bakhmut, which has been the scene of a prolonged battle for months, they “lack the capability” to continue advancing toward other key cities in Ukraine.
A destroyed Russian tank is pictured on the border of the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions on September 22, 2022. In the inset, Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen at an event for the Russian military in Moscow on February 27, 2023. The U.S. intelligence community does not believe Putin’s military will be capable of making significant gains in its war against Ukraine this year. Photos by ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/Getty Images
Haines told Congress that given Putin’s “grinding attritional war” in Ukraine, the intelligence community does not “foresee the Russian military recovering enough this year to make major territorial gains.”
She also said Russia would likely have to turn to mobilization again, as well as procuring ammunition from other countries to keep the military operating at its current level.
The assessment report from the U.S. intelligence community contained a warning for the U.S. about the war in Ukraine possibly causing a direct conflict between Russia and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s Western allies.
“Russia probably does not want a direct military conflict with US and NATO forces, but there is potential for that to occur,” the report stated. “Russian leaders thus far have avoided taking actions that would broaden the Ukraine conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders, but the risk for escalation remains significant.”
The report also said that there is “real potential” that Russia’s military failures in Ukraine could hurt Putin’s “domestic standing and thereby trigger additional escalatory actions by Russia in an effort to win back public support.”
The Kremlin, meanwhile, has claimed the war is ongoing in part because Ukraine is not interested in engaging in peace talks.
“So far, to be honest, probably no one can ascertain any signals from the Ukrainian side, as long as we proceed from the impossibility de jure for the Ukrainian side to negotiate on this matter. We proceed from this,” Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, said to reporters on February 28.
He added, “The main thing is to achieve our goals. This is our absolute priority.”
Newsweek has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.