Russian President Vladimir Putin still has goals for his military beyond the primary focus of his efforts in the Donbas region in Ukraine, the director of national intelligence said on Tuesday.
At the commencement of its military operation, the Russian military sought to topple Kyiv, but it was held off and ultimately had to retreat, which is when it refocused its efforts on the eastern breakaway regions, where Ukrainians and pro-Russian separatist groups have fought for years.
DNI chief Avril Haines told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that she's unsure whether Putin would be content if the Russian military succeeded in the Donbas.
IN HIS VICTORY DAY SPEECH, PUTIN SEEKS RUSSIAN UNITY FOR A LONG-TERM STRUGGLE AGAINST THE WEST
"Even if they are successful, we are not confident that the fight in the Donbas will effectively end the war," she explained. "We assess President Putin is preparing for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine, during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas. We assess that Putin's strategic goals are probably not changed, suggesting he regards the decision in late March to refocus Russian forces on the Donbas is only a temporary shift to regain the initiative after the Russian military's failure to capture Kyiv."
Despite Putin's lofty goals, the Russian military has faced many of the same problems that plagued the initial phase of its military operation, and it has had a similar lack of success in the Donbas.
The Pentagon has seen “anecdotal reports” that “mid-grade officers at various levels, even up to the battalion level” have “either refused to obey orders or are not obeying them with the same measure of alacrity that you would expect an officer to obey," a senior U.S. defense official told reporters on Monday.
“I would not characterize it as successful, not at all,” the official added when asked to characterize the Russian military’s status in the Donbas. “They really haven’t achieved any significant progress on the lines of axes that they had anticipated achieving in the northern Donbas. They are being resisted very effectively by the Ukrainians. So, again, I go back to the words I used last week — incremental and somewhat anemic.”
Putin gave his much anticipated "Victory Day" speech at a military parade on the commemorative day when the nation celebrates the Russian military's role in defeating the Nazis in World War II.
He did not include an announcement of victory in Ukraine or any declarations of further troop mobilizations despite concerns from the West, but he defended Russia's military invasion and actions in Ukraine, blaming the West for creating "threats" at Russia's doorstep, while much of the Western world has alleged that Russian soldiers have committed war crimes, specifically with the targeting of civilians.
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Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified alongside Haines, and he described the situation in the Donbas as a "stalemate" and "attrition warfare."
He also said that the talent will likely “last for a while” without “a breakout on either side” unless Putin mobilizes more forces because if he does, it’ll “bring thousands of more soldiers to the fight, and even though they may not be as well trained and competent, they will still bring mass and a lot more ammunition.”