Putin will mobilize his entire country, including a state of war. He expects to persevere in exhausting Western aid to Ukraine, according to US intelligence.
According to our assessment, President Putin is preparing for a protracted conflict in Ukraine, in which he wants to seize the goals beyond the Donetsk Basin.
– quoted Avril Hainest, director of U.S. national intelligence at the French news agency AFP.
The body it oversees believes Putin’s decision to concentrate Russian forces in the eastern Donbass region is “only a temporary shift” after a failure to occupy Kyiv in the north.
Russian forces intend to further conquer areas along the Black Sea coast, in part to secure water supplies to Crimea, which was occupied by Moscow in 2014, Haines told the relevant committee of the Senate.
“We see signs that the Russian army wants to extend the land corridor to Transnistria,” Haines said, referring to the Moscow-backed breakaway region of Moldova along Ukraine’s southwestern border.
This is not new: many believe that the Transnistrian region could also be involved in the Russian-Ukrainian war conflict, as this area has been ruled by pro-Russian separatists since 1992.
The Transnistrian region, Transnistria, has long been a major concern for Moldova, as local divisions are clearly destabilizing the region.
The gravity of the situation is illustrated by the fact that the Transnistrian Republic, which is not recognized by any UN member state, has been banned from leaving the area for men to be admitted to the war. There are currently 500 Russian “peacekeepers” and about a thousand Russian soldiers here, and the Moldovan authorities are present with a total of four thousand soldiers.
The introduction of a state of war in Russia is not ruled out
According to U.S. intelligence, the Russian force is currently not large enough and not strong enough to occupy and retain the entire area without mobilizing the resources of Russian society more generally.
The Russian president has faced that his ambitions are not in line with Russia’s current traditional military capabilities
Haines said nuancedly.
This, he said, “suggests that we may be moving on a more unpredictable, potentially escalating trajectory over the next few months”.
“The current trend increases the likelihood that President Putin will resort to more drastic means: including the introduction of a state of war, the reorganization of industrial production, or military capabilities to free up the resources needed to achieve its goals,” Haines said.
Russian forces will increasingly try to cut off Western military aid to Ukraine, and Moscow may try to retaliate against Western economic sanctions.
As the war drags on, it will be able to survive Western support for Ukraine, the Russian president said, according to the US intelligence chief.
“Putin is likely to believe that Russia has a greater capacity and willingness to face the challenges than its opponents. It is expected that US and EU determination will weaken as food shortages, inflation and energy prices cause more and more serious problems, ”Haines said.
The nuclear threat
The director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency described the current fighting on the long front in the Donbass region as a kind of “stalemate”.
Scott Berrier said the situation could change if Moscow officially declared war and ordered a general military mobilization to increase its force.
“If the Russian message of war and mobilization is missed, the stalemate will persist for a while and I see no possibility of an outbreak on either side,” the lieutenant general said.
The Russian leader is not believed to be ready to escalate the conflict by deploying nuclear weapons, says Avril Haines, who oversees all U.S. intelligence, including the CIA and the National Security Agency.
Putin uses nuclear “rhetoric” only to deter the West from supporting Ukraine.
As Putin sees the West as ignoring the threats, Haines said Russia could step up rhetoric by showing off a new nuclear exercise – in the form of land, air and submarine nuclear threats.
However, U.S. intelligence says Putin would only approve the deployment of an even smaller “tactical” nuclear strike if Russia itself was threatened by an “existential threat”.
Haines said Moscow would step up signals to make it clear when it would be ready to deploy a nuclear weapon.
(Cover image: Smoke rises from the city of Rubizsne in the Donbass region on April 7, 2022. Photo: FADEL SENNA / AFP)