Putin War: Dictator’s Miscalculations, CIA Director

CIA director: Putin “proven wrong” on pre-invasion assumptions about success in Ukraine

From CNN’s Geneva Sands

CIA Director Bill Burns listens during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in February 2021.
CIA Director Bill Burns listens during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in February 2021. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Pool/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin is “determined to dominate and control Ukraine” and went to war based on a set of assumptions that led him to believe Russia would have a favorable outcome, CIA Director Bill Burns testified Tuesday.

Putin believed several assumptions about use of force, including the belief that Ukraine was weak and easily intimidated. Second, Putin believed that Europeans, especially the French and Germans, were distracted and risk-averse.

Third, he believed he had “sanctions-proofed” his economy and created a large war chest to foreign currency reserves.

And fourth, he was confident that he had modernized his military and they were capable of a quick decisive victory at minimal cost.

“He’s been proven wrong on every count,” Burns said. 

Asked about what it would take for Putin to change his calculus in Ukraine, Burns offered a sober assessment, saying that “this is a matter of deep personal conviction for him.”

Putin has “been stewing in a combustible combination of grievance and ambition for many years,” he said, adding that the Russian president has created a system in which his own circle of advisers is “narrower and narrower.”

The global Covid-19 pandemic has also made his circle even smaller, Burns said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats.

Burns later predicted an “ugly next few weeks” with “scant regard for civilian casualties,” given Russia is unlikely to be able to install a puppet regime or pro-Russian leadership in the face of opposition from the Ukrainian people.

“The Ukrainians are going to continue to resist fiercely and effectively,” he added.

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