Intelligence Officials Warn of Losses for Ukraine Without More U.S. Aid

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Senior intelligence officials warned on Monday that without additional American aid, Ukraine faced the prospect of continued battlefield losses as Russia relies on a network of critical arms suppliers and drastically increases its supply of technology from China.

In public testimony during the annual survey of worldwide threats facing the United States, the officials predicted that any continued delay of U.S. aid to Ukraine would lead to additional territorial gains by Russia over the next year, the consequences of which would be felt not only in Europe but also in the Pacific.

“If we’re seen to be walking away from support for Ukraine, not only is that going to feed doubts amongst our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific; it’s going to stoke the ambitions of the Chinese leadership in contingencies ranging from Taiwan to the South China Sea,” William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, told Congress.

The assessment marked a sharp turn from just a year ago, when Ukraine’s military appeared on the march and the Russians seemed to be in retreat.

Over the course of just over two hours of testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Burns and the director of national intelligence, Avril D. Haines, described an increasingly dire situation for Ukraine, one in which Russia is producing far more artillery shells and has worked out a steady supply of drones, shells and other military goods from two key suppliers.

“It is hard to imagine how Ukraine will be able to maintain the extremely hard-fought advances it has made against the Russians, especially given the sustained surge in Russian ammunition production and purchases from North Korea and Iran,” Ms. Haines said.

Mr. Burns, who recently returned from his 10th visit to Ukraine, said the war there was at a crossroads, both for security in Europe and for American interests around the world.

If the House approved the $60 billion in security assistance for Ukraine that passed the Senate, Mr. Burns said, Kyiv would be able to strike a strategic blow against Russia.

“It’s our assessment that with supplemental assistance, Ukraine can hold its own on the front lines through 2024 and into early 2025,” he said. “That Ukraine can continue to exact costs against Russia, not only with deep penetration strikes in Crimea, but also against its Black Sea fleet.”

In the past six months, Mr. Burns said, Ukraine has managed to sink 15 Russian ships.

With additional funding, Ukraine should be able to regain the “offensive initiative” by the end of this year or early 2025, Mr. Burns said. Such a shift, he added, would put Ukraine in a stronger position to negotiate with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

“Ukraine could sustain itself as a strong, sovereign, independent country, anchor itself in Western institutions and have the space and the security to recover from this terrible aggression and leave Russia to deal with the long-term consequences of Putin’s brutal and foolish invasion,” Mr. Burns said.

He made no reference, however, to whether securing such space and security would ultimately require Ukraine to surrender territory in the south and the east to Russia.

Intelligence officials made only an indirect reference to the objective that Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III laid out soon after the war started in February 2022: that the West had to leave Russia in a condition that would keep it from ever invading a neighboring country again.

Ms. Haines noted that Russia had incurred more military losses than any time since World War II and had lost thousands of its most modern tanks and armored vehicles, “setting them back years.”

But both Ms. Haines and Mr. Burns seemed to acknowledge that Mr. Putin had a high tolerance for the economic pain of sanctions and the political risk of continued high casualties.

Instead, Mr. Burns described a situation on the ground that left Ukraine on the defensive, and perhaps in retreat. Without additional American aid, Ukraine will lose significant ground this year, Mr. Burns said. He pointed to Ukraine’s rushed withdrawal from Avdiivka last month.

“Without supplemental assistance in 2024, you’re going to see more Avdiivkas,” he said. “And that, it seems to me, would be a massive and historic mistake for the United States.”


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