Vladimir Putin ‘gearing up for a prolonged war and will not stop at Donbas’

Russian leader’s retreat from Kyiv was ‘temporary shift’ and he is likely counting on Western resolve weakening, warns US intelligence chief


10 May 2022 •

Vladimir Putin is counting on a weakening of the West’s resolve as the cost of living crisis bites while he pursues a protracted war in Ukraine, Washington’s top spy chief warned.

Avril Haines, the US director of national intelligence, said that the Russian leader’s decision to retreat from Kyiv and focus on the eastern Donbas region was only a “temporary shift to regain the initiative” and he maintained broader territorial ambitions.

She said it was becoming a “war of attrition” with little “viable” hope of peace, and a Russian victory in Donbas may not end the war, with Putin determined to build a land bridge all the way to Transnistria, the pro-Russian enclave in Moldova.

Ms Haines, who oversees Joe Biden’s daily intelligence briefing, said that she expected Russia’s GDP to fall by 10 per cent, possibly more, over the course of the year.

However, she said there was an increasing likelihood that Putin would mobilise his entire country, potentially ordering martial law.

The top US intelligence official said: “Putin most likely judges that Russia has a greater ability, and willingness, to endure challenges than his adversaries, and he is probably counting on US and EU resolve to weaken as food shortages, inflation and energy prices get worse.

“We assess President Putin is preparing for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas.”

Avril Haines
Avril Haines said that Vladimir Putin’s invasion was becoming a ‘war of attrition’ with little ‘viable’ hope of peace CREDIT: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

She added: “Combined with the reality that Putin faces a mismatch between his ambitions, and Russia’s current conventional military capabilities, the next few months could see us moving along a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory.”

Appearing before the armed services committee in the US Congress, Ms Haines said that she expected more “ad hoc decision-making” by Putin, and an increasing potential for him to use “more drastic means, including imposing martial law, reorienting industrial production, or potentially escalatory military options”.

She said that Putin would also use “nuclear rhetoric” to deter the West from intensifying support for Ukraine.

However, he “would probably only authorise the use of nuclear weapons if he perceived an existential threat to the Russian state or regime,” she said.

She added: “We’re supporting Ukraine, but we also don’t want to ultimately end up in World War III.”

US intelligence officials believe that Putin currently has four “near-term” objectives. He wants to take over Donbas, encircle Ukrainian forces west of Donbas, and consolidate a land bridge from Donbas to Crimea.

The fourth goal is to extend the land bridge west to take Odesa and reach Transnistria, cutting off Ukraine from the sea in the process.

Ms Haines said that the majority of the Russian public still supported what Putin has called a “special military operation”.

“I think, frankly, it’s just very hard for information to get into Russia,” she said. “As both Russia and Ukraine believe they can continue to make progress militarily, we do not see a viable negotiating path forward, at least in the short term.”

She said that Putin may try to dent Washington’s support for Ukraine by authorising a large nuclear exercise involving intercontinental missiles, bombers and submarines.

Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, the head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, told the same hearing: “The Russians aren’t winning and the Ukrainians aren’t winning, and we’re at a bit of a stalemate here.

“As this war and its consequences slowly weaken Russian conventional strength, Russia likely will increasingly rely on its nuclear deterrent to signal the West and project strength.”

When asked whether Putin would use tactical nuclear weapons, he said: “Right now, we do not see that.”

He also said that between eight and 10 Russian generals have been killed so far in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the director of GCHQ said that British intelligence on the “behaviours and tactics” of Russian forces was helping Ukraine to “excel” in the war.

Speaking at a cyber security conference in Wales, Sir Jeremy Fleming said: “It is already a remarkable feature of this war just how much information about the behaviours and tactics of the Russian forces are out in the public domain and how much intelligence has been released by Western allies to challenge and get ahead of Putin’s actions.

“This is modern warfare influenced and shaped by the democratisation of information.”


  1. There is only one viable solution for this catastrophe. That is for Ukraine to become a massive military superpower in double quick time.
    As Sen. Lindsay Graham said recently : “we have to triple down on our support. There is no off ramp.”

  2. It’s not merely a matter of resolve. Resources matter as well. Russia does not have the military resources to maintain a long war, especially a war of attrition. The losses of Russia at this point are around 90,000 killed, wounded, captured and deserted. Consider Putin started with around 190,000 in Ukraine, the losses have been staggering. Russia can not afford such losses and maintain an Army. Add in the huge equipment losses, and one wonders what Russia is going to fight with?

  3. Selected comments from Telegraph readers :

    Carole Waters
    “So Putin the demented megalomaniac is gearing up for a long drawn out war, the question that needs to be urgently answered is how much longer is the West going to allow this miserable excuse of a human being to carry on calling all the shots and being allowed to murder, maim and destroy Ukraine and its people?!”

    Andrew Schofield
    “We’re supporting Ukraine but we don’t want to end up in WW3″, says it all. You’ll get it anyway if Russia under Putin becomes a pariah state, mobilising hackers, attacking Western infrstructure, sending agents for more Novichock assassinations. Subs have already located undersea cables supplying the UK and are poised to rip them up. As long as we keep bottling it, he will keep pulverising Ukraine. Time for nukin’ Putin.”

    pl schwartz
    “In WWII Germany and Japan lost the war of attrition because they could not match the US output. How can Russia plan for a war of attrition against NATO?He is lost before it starts. hi military budget is 1/18 of NATO. Russia has very little Hi-Tech ability. .
    It is quite possible that Putin did not call for general mobilization because he does not have enough arms to equip them.
    Biden was shamed into massive support for Ukraine by Johnson’s immediate actions.
    . I do not believe that Biden has any interest other then showering trillions to his woke support base.”

    Mark Daugherty
    “On the Russian side it is all going to come down to whether they can get enough military equipment in the arsenal up to battle ready. They have the reserves to call up, and they technically have the equipment in the depot, but what state of maintenance is that equipment in? If they can put 800,000 of their 2 million ready reserves in the field, they win, and period. They will drive to the NATO borders on a broad front, under cover of mass bombardment, and on one axis of attack. When the sea of mud dries, we will see if they can equip their men.
    On our side of the fence it all turns on whether Europe will remain steadfast in opposing Russia once the economic pain hits, and the pain will be fierce in the months ahead. The decline in GDP over the next year is going to be nothing short of Great Depression levels. Does Europe have the moral courage necessary to go through that kind of pain for the freedom of others and themselves? I have my doubts.
    One thing is for sure: America is not going to do it for you this time. In the final analysis America can do just fine with a Europe that Russia and France divvy up. America is really tired of paying for the security and defense of other peoples. We will stand with you, IF YOU STAND. We will be more than happy to pick up our marbles and go home if you no longer have the guts to live free.”

  4. I have a big question for all those advocates of “long war and/or war of attrition”; how? How is mafia land going to accomplish this? Do they know something that we don’t? Is mafia land getting arms and ammo from somewhere else besides its run-down factories and its junkyards called military depots?

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