Vladimir Putin Doesn’t Believe He Can Afford to Lose in Ukraine: US Spy Chief

The CIA chief said Putin has been “stewing” about Ukraine for years. (FILE)

Washington:

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes he cannot afford to lose in Ukraine and is “doubling” the war, but shows no signs of plans to use tactical nuclear weapons, CIA Director Bill Burns said on Saturday.

Despite Russian forces’ failure to take Kiev and their struggle to advance along the main war front lines in the southeastern Donbas region, the Russian leader has not changed his mind that his forces can defeat Ukraine, Burns said. .

Putin’s faith in the Russian military’s ability to reduce Ukrainian resistance is likely not shaken, despite significant defeats on the battlefield, the US spy chief told a Financial Times conference.

“I think he’s in a state of mind where he doesn’t believe he can afford to lose,” Burns said.

He said Putin has been “stewing” about Ukraine – which was once part of the Soviet Union – for years in a “highly combustible combination of grievances and ambition and uncertainty”.

Putin has not been deterred by the resistance in the war “because he bets so much on the choices he made to launch this invasion,” Burns said.

“I think he is now convinced that doubling up will still allow him to make progress,” Burns said.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Burns, a former US ambassador to Russia who has spent considerable time studying the Russian leader, said his and other Western intelligence agencies see no signs that Moscow is willing to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to achieve a victory in Ukraine or to attack the Kiev supporters. †

Russia put its nuclear forces on high alert shortly after launching the invasion on February 24.

Since then, Putin has made thinly veiled threats and suggested that he is willing to use Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons if the West intervenes directly in the Ukraine conflict.

“As an intelligence community, we see no practical evidence of Russian planning for the deployment or even possible use of tactical nuclear weapons at this time,” Burns said.

“Given the kind of saber clatter we’ve heard from the Russian leadership, we can’t take those possibilities lightly,” he said.

“So as an intelligence agency we remain very sharply focused on those opportunities at a time when the stakes for Russia are very high,” he said.

Burns offered no assessment of the current battlefield situation or predicted how the war would end.

China ‘restless’

But he said China, which now sees Washington as its main opponent, is closely studying the lessons of the war and what they mean for Beijing’s desire to take control of Taiwan.

Burns said he does not believe Chinese President Xi Jinping has changed his goal of eventually uniting Taiwan with China, by force if necessary.

But he said he thinks Beijing has been “surprised” by the poor performance of the Russian armed forces and the tough resistance of all Ukrainian society, as well as the strong defense support given to Kiev by the West.

Russia’s experience in Ukraine is likely to influence Beijing’s calculation “on how and when” they try to take control of Taiwan, which China sees as a renegade province.

“I think they have been affected by the way the transatlantic alliance in particular has come together to impose economic costs on Russia as a result of that aggression,” he continued.

Beijing is “disturbed by the fact that what Putin has done is to bring Europeans and Americans closer together,” Burns said.

“What conclusions are drawn from all that remains a question mark,” he said.

“I think the Chinese leadership is looking at all this very carefully, to the costs and consequences of any attempt to use force to take control of Taiwan.”

(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)

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