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US intelligence officials: Russia likely to escalate military actions in Ukraine

Russian servicemen drive tanks during military exercises in the Leningrad Region, Russia, in this handout picture released on February 14, 2022. (Reuters photo)

US intelligence officials have told Congress that Russia is likely to escalate its military actions in Ukraine, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to be deterred by US-led punitive measures.

“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,” US National Intelligence Director Avril Haines told congressional lawmakers at the annual worldwide threats hearing on Tuesday.

“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,” Haines said.

“Nevertheless, our analysts assess that Putin is unlikely to be deterred by such setbacks and instead may escalate, essentially doubling down,” he added.

Putin announced on February 24 a “special military operation” in Ukraine’s Donbas region to “defend people” subjected to "genocide" there against government forces, stressing that Moscow has “no plans to occupy Ukrainian territory.”

US President Joe Biden called the Russian action an "unprovoked and unjustified attack," and the American media described it as the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two assault by Russia.

On Tuesday, Biden announced a ban on American imports of Russian oil. He added that Russia would be unable to ever control all of Ukraine, vowing the war would "never be a victory" for Putin.

The Biden administration has imposed harsh economic and banking sanctions on Russia in response to Russia's military actions in Ukraine. 

Biden said the sanctions would limit Russia's ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds and yen.

The US president claimed that the only other alternative to the sanctions would be to start a “Third World War.”

US officials claimed that Russia has sustained anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 casualties. However, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, a total of 498 Russian troops have died in the operation in Ukraine.

Burns: Putin set to 'double down' in Ukraine

“Putin has commented privately and publicly over the years that he doesn't believe Ukraine's a real country. 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,” CIA Director Bill Burns told the committee.

“I think Putin is angry and frustrated right now. He's likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties," he added.

"But the challenge that he faces, and this is the biggest question that's hung over our analysis of his planning for months now … is he has no sustainable political end game in the face of what is going to continue to be fierce resistance from Ukrainians.”

According to an American journalist and political commentator, the flurry of statements attributed to US defense officials regarding the war in Ukraine are nothing but psychological warfare.

“What's coming out of Washington is psyop, nothing more,” said Don DeBar, a journalist based in New York.

“Even without the Russians, and with US help, Ukraine has been unable to project power into the east for the past 8 years. Now the Russians have taken out the air defenses, and apparently, they've also pretty much decimated the Azov fascist battalions,” he told Press TV.

“The Ukrainians themselves say that the Russians have already cut through to Kiev and some other cities in the West,” he added.

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