Russia-Ukraine war: Intel officials predict 'ugly' weeks ahead as Putin doubles down

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Top U.S. intelligence officials warned Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is frustrated that his invasion of Ukraine is not going as planned, and that the coming weeks will get “ugly” as he takes an even more aggressive approach to try and take over the country.

During a House Intelligence Committee hearing, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said that Putin did not expect the U.S. and European allies to respond the way they have with sanctions, and did not anticipate private companies ceasing to do business with Russia.

“Nevertheless,” Haines said, “our analysts assessed that Putin is unlikely to be deterred by such setbacks and instead may escalate, essentially doubling down to achieve Ukrainian disarmament neutrality to prevent it from further integrating with the U.S. and NATO if it doesn’t reach some diplomatic negotiation.”

In this handout photo made from video released by the Russian Presidential Press Service, Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to celebrate International Women’s Day, in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 8, 2022.
(Russian Presidential Press Service via AP)

Haines went on to say that her agency believes “Putin feels aggrieved because the West does not give him proper deference.”

CIA Director William Burns seconded the notion that Putin is adamant in achieving his goals and that “this is a matter of deep personal conviction” for the Russian leader. stating that he believes “Putin is determined to dominate and control Ukraine to shape its orientation.”

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines (center) listens during a House Intelligence Committee hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on March 8, 2022, in Washington, D.C. The committee also heard from Director of the National Security Agency Gen. Paul Nakasone, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director William Burns and Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. 
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Burns also said that he thinks Putin began this war based on false assumptions that Ukraine could be “easily intimidated,” that Europeans, particularly France and Germany, are “distracted” by internal politics, that Russia’s foreign currency reserves gave them sufficient protection against sanctions, and that improvements made to the Russian military would have yielded “a quick, decisive victory at minimal cost.”

“He’s been proven wrong on every count,” Burns said. “Those assumptions have proven to be profoundly flawed over the last 12 days of conflict.”

As a result, Burns said he thinks “Putin is angry and frustrated now.”

  • Image 1 of 3

    A Belarusian volunteer speaks by phone as he receives military training at the Belarusian Company base in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. Hundreds of Belarus’ emigrants and citizens have arrived in Ukraine to help the Ukrainian army fight against Russian invaders. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

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    The faces of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine are illuminated by the light from a smartphone as they join a line approaching the border with Poland in Shehyni, Ukraine, Sunday, March 6, 2022.  (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

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    President Biden announces a ban on Russian oil imports, toughening the toll on Russia’s economy in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine, Tuesday, March 8, 2022, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington.  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Burns predicted that this frustration will result in “an ugly next few weeks in which he doubles down  … with scant regard for civilian casualties.”

Despite his belief that Russia will act with even greater force, Burns said he is also confident that Ukraine will fight back.

“The one thing I’m absolutely convinced of, and I think our analysts across the intelligence community are absolutely convinced of, is the Ukrainians are going to continue to resist fiercely and effectively,” Burns said.

Haines noted that while Putin may take a tougher stance now, he may be lowering his expectations in terms of possible outcomes as he sees more and more obstacles in his way.

“What he might be willing to accept as a victory may change over time, given the significant costs he is incurring,” Haines said.

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