Springfield News-Sun

CIA director: Putin too confident he can grind down Ukraine

- By Josh Boak

WILMINGTON, DEL. — As the war in Ukraine enters its second year, CIA Director William Burns said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is being “too confident” in his military’s ability to grind Ukraine into submission.

Burns, in a television interview, said the head of Russia’s intelligen­ce services had displayed in their November meeting “a sense of cockiness and hubris” that reflected Putin’s own beliefs “that he can make time work for him, that he believes he can grind down the Ukrainians that he can wear down our European allies, that political fatigue will eventually set in.”

That conversati­on, in which Burns warned of the consequenc­es if Russia were to deploy a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, was “pretty dispiritin­g,” he said.

Burns said he judged Putin as “quite determined” to continue prosecutin­g the war, despite the casualties, tactical shortcomin­gs and economic and reputation­al damage to Russia.

“I think Putin is, right now, entirely too confident of his ability ... to wear down Ukraine,” Burns told CBS’ “Face the Nation” in an interview that aired Sunday. Burns said that “at some point, he’s going to have to face up to increasing costs as well, in coffins coming home to some of the poorest parts of Russia,” home to many of the conscripts “being thrown as cannon fodder,” he said.

Burns also said Putin was underestim­ating U.S. resolve to support Ukraine, saying that it has been his experience that the Russian leader’s view is that Americans have “attention deficit disorder and we’ll move on to some other issue eventually.”

The comments came at a critical juncture for the war, as the Biden administra­tion is “confident that the Chinese leadership is considerin­g” whether to provide “lethal” military equipment to Russia.

“It would be a very risky and unwise bet,” Burns said, adding that such a move could only further strain relations between the world’s two largest economics. “That’s why I hope very much that they don’t.”

Burns said China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has closely watched how the war has evolved, and “I think, in many ways, he’s been unsettled and sobered by what he’s seen.”

Meanwhile, the question of military aid is also a source of uncertaint­y in the U.S. as Republican lawmakers criticized the administra­tion for not sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

The politics of support for Ukraine are also complicate­d by some GOP members of Congress who say the administra­tion should pull back and focus more on the needs at home.

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William Burns

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