Putin can’t reach Ukraine target, says US military intelligence chief

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Russia’s setbacks and limited resources in Ukraine show that its forces are unable to achieve President Vladimir Putin’s initial goals of invading the country as things stand, the intelligence chief said. the Pentagon Friday.

“We’re now getting to a point where I think Putin will have to rethink his objectives for this operation,” Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told an intelligence and national security conference outside Washington. “Because “it’s pretty clear now that he… won’t be able to do what he originally set out to do.”

Putin sent troops into neighboring Ukraine in February with what US officials said was the goal of overthrowing Ukraine’s western-friendly government. Ukrainian forces drove Russian fighters from their positions around Ukraine’s capital earlier in the war. And Russia suffered another major setback last week, when a Ukrainian counter-offensive forced its forces back from much of northeastern Ukraine.

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Ukrainian soldiers rest on a former Russian position in the recently recaptured area of ​​Izium, Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. (Evgeniy Maloletka/TNZT)

“The Russians planned an occupation, not necessarily an invasion, and that turned them back on,” Berrier said, citing Putin’s reluctance to fully mobilize Russian forces to get more manpower into the battle.

President Joe Biden and other government officials have made sure that Russia’s latest retreat is not called a Ukrainian victory or turning point in the war, and analysts warn it is impossible to estimate what lies ahead.

“He’s coming to a decision,” Berrier said of Putin. “We don’t know what that decision will be. But that will largely determine how long this conflict lasts.”

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Berrier spoke on a panel with other senior officials at the intelligence community’s Intelligence and National Security Summit in National Harbor in Maryland, just outside Washington.

US leaders avoid victory dance in Ukraine

Asked about concerns that Putin could unleash weapons of mass destruction if he is thwarted on the battlefield by US- and NATO-backed Ukrainian forces, CIA Deputy Director David Cohen said: “I don’t think we’re holding Putin to his original agenda, that was to control Ukraine. I don’t think we have seen any reason to believe he has moved away from that.”

Nor should the US underestimate Putin’s “risk appetite,” Cohen said. Early in the war, Putin and his officials alluded to Russia’s nuclear arsenal and massive retaliatory measures to warn NATO not to get involved in the conflict.

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“That said, we have seen no concrete evidence of planning for the use of weapons of mass destruction,” Cohen said. The most likely form of Russian retaliation against the United States would be more attempts to interfere with the American political system, said other security and intelligence officials.

Separately, at a major regional summit in Uzbekistan on Friday, Putin vowed to push through the attack on Ukraine and warned Moscow could step up its attacks on the country’s infrastructure if Ukrainian forces attacked facilities in Russia.

The conference included leaders from China, India, Turkey and several other countries.

Putin said the “liberation” of the entire eastern Donbas region of Ukraine was Russia’s main military goal and he saw no need to revise it.

“We are in no rush,” the Russian leader said.

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