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Russia likely to ramp up Ukraine attacks despite military setbacks, US intel officials tell Congress

Top U.S. intelligence officials see Putin as frustrated, angry but preparing to "double down"

March 8, 2022 2:11pm

Updated: March 8, 2022 3:18pm

Russia will likely escalate its military operation in Ukraine even amid setbacks caused by an unexpectedly strong defense from Ukraine, U.S. intelligence officials told congressional lawmakers Tuesday.

"We assess Putin feels aggrieved the West does not give him proper deference and perceives this as a war he cannot afford to lose, but what he might be willing to accept as a victory may change over time given the significant costs he is incurring," Direction of National Intelligence Avril Haines told members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

"While Putin probably anticipated many of the current sanctions to be imposed while he weighed the cost of the invasion, we judge that he did not anticipate either the degree to which the United States and its allies and partners would take steps to undermine his capacity to mitigate Western actions."

The hearing continued the U.S. government's strategy around the Russia-Ukraine conflict of openly sharing intelligence gathered information to try to undermine the vast disinformation apparatus being utilized by the Russian government.

"Our analysts assess that Putin is unlikely to be deterred by such setbacks and instead may escalate, essentially doubling down," Haines also said.

The U.S. estimates Russia has sustained 2,000 to 4,000 casualties since the time the invasion began almost two weeks ago.

"Putin has commented privately and publicly over the years that he doesn't believe Ukraine's a real country," CIA Director Bill Burns told committee members. "Well, he's dead wrong about that. Real countries fight back, and that's what the Ukrainians have done quite heroically over the last 12 days."

The challenge now for Putin, said Burns, is that he "has no sustainable political end game in the face of what is going to continue to be fierce resistance from Ukrainians."

"He's likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties," he also said.

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