Russian President Vladimir Putin is “determined to dominate and control Ukraine” and went to war on a series of assumptions that led him to believe Russia would have a favorable outcome, CIA Director Bill Burns testified on Tuesday.
Putin believed several assumptions about the use of force, including the belief that Ukraine was weak and easy to intimidate. Second, Putin believed that Europeans, especially the French and Germans, were distracted and risk averse.
Third, he believed that he had “sanctioned proof” his economy and created a large war chest for foreign exchange reserves.
And fourth, he was convinced that he had modernized his army and that they were capable of a quick decisive victory at minimal cost.
“It has been proven that he is wrong,” Burns said.
Asked about what it would take for Putin to change his calculation in Ukraine, Burns offered a sober assessment, saying that “for him this is a matter of deep personal conviction”.
Putin has been cooking for years “in a combustible combination of grievance and ambition,” 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 narrowed his circle even more, Burns said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on global threats.
Burns later predicted an “ugly coming weeks” with “little respect for civilian casualties” as Russia is unlikely to be able to install a puppet regime or pro-Russian leadership despite opposition from the Ukrainian people.
“The Ukrainians will continue to resist fiercely and effectively,” he added.