Ukraine war to become ‘more unpredictable and escalatory’ as Putin ready for long haul

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Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines spoke to Congress on Tuesday, where she shared their theories on Putin’s plans for the next phase of his invasion of Ukraine.

She told the Senate Armed Services Committee “we are not confident the fighting in Donbas will effectively end the war” and claimed that Putin is “preparing for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine, during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas”.

Since his armies withdrew from the rest of the country Putin is said to be concentrating his forces on the eastern Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists currently control Donetsk and Luhansk.

Ms Haines stated that the Kremlin’s next military moves will become increasingly difficult to predict due to the “mismatch between [Putin’s] ambitions and Russia’s current conventional military capabilities”.

She continued: “At the very least, we believe the dichotomy will usher in a period of more ad hoc decision-making in Russia, both with respect to the domestic adjustments required to sustain this push, as well as the military conflict with Ukraine and the West.

“And the current trend increases the likelihood that President Putin will turn to more drastic means, including imposing martial law, reorienting industrial production, or potentially escalatory military actions to free up the resources needed to achieve his objectives as the conflict drags on, or if he perceives Russia is losing in Ukraine.”

There are concerns that Moscow will set their sights on other targets outside Ukraine, including possibly building a land bridge to Moldova, reported CNN.

However in order to do this Putin would need to launch a full military mobilisation inside Russia, something he has not yet done.

US Defence Intelligence Agency head Lieutenant General Scott Berrier said the conflict is currently at a “stalemate”, while Ms Haines has described it as a “war of attrition” and believes there is not at the moment a “viable negotiating path”.

Joe Biden’s government has expressed concern about provoking Russia into nuclear action, however, both Ms Haines and Lt. Gen. Berrier believes there is no “imminent” threat.

Ms Haines added: “Obviously we’re in a position where we’re supporting Ukraine, but we also don’t want to ultimately end up in World War III, and we don’t want to have a situation in which actors are using nuclear weapons.

“Our view [is] that there is no sort of an imminent potential for Putin to use nuclear weapons.”

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She said that Putin would likely only turn to nuclear weapons if he “perceived an existential threat either to his regime or to Russia”.

This could occur if he believed NATO was about to intervene in the war in Ukraine.

Ms Haines eased fears by saying: “There are a lot of things that he [Putin] would do in the context of escalation before he would get to a nuclear weapon.

“And also that he would be likely to engage in some signalling beyond what he’s done thus far before doing so.”

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