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Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency detailed the grim concerns in a new 67-page summary of global threats on Thursday.
It raises the specter of a possible nuclear attack on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital which has so-far resisted Russian advances, and said a desperate Putin posed a threat to the whole world.
His report notes that Russia claims to be developing missiles that are capable of circumventing Western defenses in order to ‘ensure that Russia can credibly inflict unacceptable damage on the West.’
Russia recently deployed non-nuclear missiles that come equipped with decoy projectiles – a feature that hadn’t previously been seen by western defense bosses – giving a possible glimpse of the type of feature that could be fitted to the most devastating bombs in Putin’s arsenal.
‘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 to its internal and external audiences,’ he wrote in the report that was obtained by Fox News.
The report’s grim assessment comes less than 24 hours before a Friday call between President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping, as Biden is expected to ask for Xi’s help on pressuring Moscow to end the conflict.
Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, revealed concerning details in a new report that Putin is likely to threaten to use nuclear weapons against the West if Ukrainian defense forces continue to push back against the invasion
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting on measures of socio-economic support of the regions outside Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday
A Russian Iskander-M mobile short-range ballistic missile launcher in 2019. The same type of missile was also deployed with a previously unknown decoy during the ongoing conflict with Ukraine
A satellite image taken over the city of Chernihiv, in northern Ukraine, on Wednesday and released Thursday shows blasts and fires caused by Russian air strikes in civilian areas
‘U.S. efforts to undermine Russia’s goals in Ukraine, combined with its perception that the United States is a nation in decline, could prompt Russia to engage in more aggressive actions not only in Ukraine itself, but also more broadly in its perceived confrontation with the West,’ Berrier said in the report.
He added that a key motivation for the invasion is Russia’s determination ‘to restore a sphere of influence over Ukraine and the other states of the former Soviet Union.’
‘Despite greater than anticipated resistance from Ukraine and relatively high losses in the initial phases of the conflict, Moscow appears determined to press forward by using more lethal capabilities until the Ukrainian government is willing to come to terms favorable to Moscow,’ he wrote.
However, a senior Pentagon official told Bloomberg on Thursday that the invasion is largely stalled, with Russia relying on more than 1,000 long-range missile strikes into Ukraine.
That in itself has further stoked fears that an embarrassed Putin would be emboldened to take the conflict nuclear, and possibly trigger World War Three.
Earlier this week, U.S. Intelligence discovered that Russia has been using secret ‘decoy dart’ missiles to strike Ukrainian targets.
These dart-shaped armaments, originally thought to be cluster bombs, have been seen on social media from almost the beginning of Russia’s invasion
The darts protect the Iskander rockets from air defense missiles by using heat-seeking and radar technology to fool defense systems, a US intelligence officer claims
It seems that Russian forces are using Iskander missiles in combination with darts that US intelligence thinks are very close to ‘penetration aids’ used in the Cold War.
Mobile rocket launchers in Russia and Belarus are believed to be shooting Moscow’s Iskander-M missiles while deploying decoy systems to fool Ukrainian air defense.
The darts protect the Iskander rockets from air defense missiles by using heat-seeking and radar technology to fool defense systems, a U.S. intelligence officer claims according to the New York Times.
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense on Thursday described the Russian invasion as ‘faltering’ due to sloppy logistics and poor planning.
‘Incessant Ukrainian counterattacks are forcing Russia to divert large numbers of troops to defend their own supply lines,’ the ministry said in a statement. ‘This is severely limiting Russia’s offensive potential.’
The counterattacks are resulting in Russia using ‘indiscriminate methods’ of attack – long-range artillery and missiles that are leveling cities, killing civilians and damaging infrastructure in retaliation for Ukraine’s effective resistance, according to the report.
The report questioned Putin’s claims to have ‘modernized’ the Russian military.
‘Russia’s modernization is intended to ensure Russia can field a military capable of engaging in the full spectrum of warfare to deter or defeat a wide scope of threats, but initial setbacks in Ukraine call some of Putin’s narrative into question,’ Berrier wrote.
But Russia claims to be developing missiles that are capable of circumventing Western defenses in order to ‘ensure that Russia can credibly inflict unacceptable damage on the West.’
‘Russia continues to improve capabilities for its Ground Forces, Airborne Forces, and coastal troops. It is upgrading main battle tanks (MBTs) and introducing new MBTs, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers to its arsenal. Russia has also steadily increased its number of battalion tactical groups (BTGs)—the Ground Force’s primary maneuver element,’ Berrier wrote.
‘In 2021, Russia’s Defense Minister claimed its force structure could generate 168 BTGs, which is a 75 percent increase from the 96 BTGs it claimed it could generate in 2016.’
Berrier also warned that in the next decade, Russia, which likely has a secret stash of chemical weapons, could also obtain nuclear weapons including a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, ‘a transoceanic torpedo’ and a new intercontinental cruise missile.
Ukrainian servicemen carry containers backdropped by a blaze at a warehouse after a bombing on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday
Russian forces bombed a theatre where hundreds of civilians, including children, were sheltering in the encircled port city of Mariupol on Wednesday, the city council said
Putin’s forces have continued their brutal military operations across Ukraine by bombing and besieging the city of Mariupol over the last 24 hours. The State Department also confirmed an American citizen was shot dead by Russian forces in the northern city of Chernihiv.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden called Putin a ‘murderous dictator and pure thug’ in his St. Patrick’s Day speech that started with the joke: ‘I may be Irish but I am not stupid’.
Biden ramped up his attacks on the Russian leader, a day after finally calling him a war criminal, in remarks that started with him going through his Irish heritage at the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon.
He called Putin a ‘murderous dictator, a pure thug who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine.’
Biden’s latest war of words are the most direct at the Russian leader in the 21 days since the start of the invasion.
The Kremlin has also upped the ante by warning the U.S. may need to be ‘put in its place’ for sharing ‘disgusting Russiaphobia’.
President Joe Biden called Vladimir Putin a ‘murderous dictator and pure thug’ in his St Patrick’s Day speech on Thursday that started with the quip: ‘I may be Irish but I am not stupid’
As Russian forces pressed their assault on Ukraine, world leaders called anew for an investigation of the Kremlin’s repeat attacks on civilian targets, including airstrikes on schools, hospitals and residential areas that led one official to lament that his city had never seen such ‘nightmarish, colossal losses.’
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that American officials were evaluating potential war crimes and that if the intentional targeting of civilians by Russia is confirmed, there will be ‘massive consequences.’
In city after city, hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought safety from the bombardment have been attacked. Rescue workers searched for survivors in the ruins of a theater that served as a shelter when it was blown apart by a Russian airstrike in the besieged city of Mariupol.
And in Merefa, near the northeast city of Kharkiv, at least 21 people were killed when Russian artillery destroyed a school and a community center, a local official said.
In Chernihiv, dozens of bodies were brought to the morgue in just one day.
The United Nations political chief, Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo, also called for an investigation into civilian casualties, reminding the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that international humanitarian law bans direct attacks on civilians.
She said many of the daily attacks battering Ukrainian cities ‘are reportedly indiscriminate’ and involve the use of ‘explosive weapons with a wide impact area.’
DiCarlo said the devastation in Mariupol and Kharkiv ‘raises grave fears about the fate of millions of residents of Kyiv and other cities facing intensifying attacks.’
In Mariupol, hundreds of civilians were reportedly taking shelter in a grand, columned theater in the city’s center when it was hit Wednesday by Russian forces.
More than a day after the airstrike, there were no reports of deaths. With communications disrupted across the city and movement difficult because of shelling and other fighting, there were conflicting reports on whether anyone had emerged from the rubble.
Satellite imagery on Monday from Maxar Technologies showed huge white letters on the pavement in front of and behind the theater spelling out ‘CHILDREN’ in Russian – ‘DETI’ – to alert warplanes to those inside.
Evacuees fleeing Ukraine-Russia conflict walk out of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 17, 2022
Pictured: Evacuees fleeing Ukraine-Russia conflict sit in a car as they wait in a line to leave the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 17, 2022. What appears to be a bullet hole is seen in the car’s windscreen
‘We hope and we think that some people who stayed in the shelter under the theater could survive,’ Petro Andrushchenko, an official with the mayor’s office, told The Associated Press. He said the building had a relatively modern basement bomb shelter designed to withstand airstrikes. Other officials said earlier that some people had gotten out.
Video and photos provided by the Ukrainian military showed that the at least three-story building had been reduced to a roofless shell, with some exterior walls collapsed.
Across the city, snow flurries fell around the skeletons of burned, windowless and shrapnel-scarred apartment buildings as smoke rose above the skyline.
‘We are trying to survive somehow,’ said one Mariupol resident, who gave only her first name, Elena. ‘My child is hungry. I don’t know what to give him to eat.’
She had been trying to call her mother, who was in a town 50 miles (80 kilometers) away. ‘I can’t tell her I am alive, you understand. There is no connection, just nothing,’ she said.
Cars, some with the ‘Z’ symbol of the Russian invasion force in their windows, drove past stacks of ammunition boxes and artillery shells in a neighborhood controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
Russia’s military denied bombing the theater or anyplace else in Mariupol on Wednesday.
In Chernihiv, at least 53 people were brought to morgues over 24 hours, killed amid heavy Russian air attacks and ground fire, the local governor, Viacheslav Chaus, told Ukrainian TV on Thursday.
Ukraine’s emergency services said a mother, father and three of their children, including 3-year-old twins, were killed when a Chernihiv hostel was shelled. Civilians were hiding in basements and shelters across the embattled city of 280,000.
‘The city has never known such nightmarish, colossal losses and destruction,’ Chaus said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said he agreed with President Joe Biden’s assessment that war crimes are being committed by Russia in Ukraine
Ukrainian officials said 10 people were killed Wednesday while waiting in a bread line in Chernihiv. An American man was among them, his sister said on Facebook.
The World Health Organization said it has verified 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities, with 12 people killed and 34 injured.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for more help for his country in a video address to German lawmakers, saying thousands of people have been killed, including 108 children. He also referred to the dire situation in Mariupol, saying: ‘Everything is a target for them.’
The address began with a delay because of a technical problem caused by an attack close to where Zelenskyy was speaking, Bundestag deputy speaker Katrin Goering-Eckardt said.
Zelenskyy´s office said Russian airstrikes hit the Kalynivka and Brovary suburbs of the capital, Kyiv. Emergency authorities in Kyiv said a fire broke out in a 16-story apartment building hit by remnants of a downed Russian rocket, and one person was killed.
In remarks early Friday, Zelenskyy said he was thankful to U.S. President Joe Biden for additional military aid, but he would not get into specifics about the new package, saying he did not want Russia to know what to expect.
He said when the invasion began on Feb. 24, Russia expected to find Ukraine much as it did in 2014, when Russia seized Crimea without a fight and backed separatists as they took control of the eastern Donbas region.
Instead, he said, Ukraine had much stronger defenses than expected, and Russia ‘didn’t know what we had for defense or how we prepared to meet the blow.’
In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven leading economies accused Putin of conducting an ‘unprovoked and shameful war,’ and called on Russia to comply with the International Court of Justice’s order to stop its attack and withdraw its forces.
Both Ukraine and Russia this week reported some progress in negotiations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that some negotiators were breaking into working groups.
Zelenskyy said he would not reveal Ukraine’s negotiating tactics.
‘Working more in silence than on television, radio or on Facebook,’ Zelenskyy said. ‘I consider it the right way.’
While details of Thursday’s talks were unknown, an official in Zelenskyy´s office told the AP that on Wednesday, the main subject discussed was whether Russian troops would remain in separatist regions in eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would be.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said Ukraine was insisting on the inclusion of one or more Western nuclear powers in the negotiations and on legally binding security guarantees for Ukraine.
In exchange, the official said, Ukraine was ready to discuss a neutral military status.
Russia has demanded that NATO pledge never to admit Ukraine to the alliance or station forces there.
The fighting has led more than 3 million people to flee Ukraine, the U.N. estimates. The death toll remains unknown, though Ukraine has said thousands of civilians have died.
The five most-likely scenarios for what happens next in Ukraine – including peace deal, Putin military success and Russian elite revolt
Russian forces in Ukraine continued to blast cities and kill civilians, but are no longer making progress on the ground, Western countries said on Thursday, as Moscow’s invasion Ukraine entered its fourth week.
Meanwhile, the UN has said more than 3 million refugees have fled across Ukraine’s borders, not knowing when they will be able to see their homes again.
Despite the Kremlin insisting it is not targeting civilians, local officials said rescuers in the besieged southern port of Mariupol were combing the rubble of a theatre where women and children had been sheltering, bombed the previous day.
The Governor of the northern Chernihiv region said 53 civilians had been killed there in bombardment over the past 24 hours.
Meanwhile, Kyiv has resisted the Russian advance, but is also sustaining heavy bombardment in the outer-regions of the capital.
Here are five possible scenarios for the weeks and months ahead, according to Western government sources and think-tank experts.
1. Military quagmire: Russian forces get bogged down and Ukraine soldiers continue their fierce resistance
A view of burned tank is seen amid Russian-Ukrainian conflict in the city of Volnovakha, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on March 12, 2022
Ukrainian forces are still resisting Russia’s invasion, inflicting serious equipment and human losses.
Crucially they repelled an attempt by paratroopers to seize the capital in the opening days and have since withdrawn to defensive positions that have enabled them to keep control over all strategic cities.
Although Russia has long claimed it has air superiority, Ukraine’s air defences appear to be still working, while Western countries are pouring in portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
‘The Russian invasion has largely stalled on all fronts,’ an update from the UK defence ministry said on Thursday.
US intelligence estimates that 7,000 Russian troops have died, The New York Times reported, while Ukraine’s military claims that figure to be much higher – although experts say that all such claims should be treated with caution.
US President Joe Biden announced a massive new package of military aid for Ukraine on Wednesday, including S-300 missile defence systems, 100 Switchblade ‘kamikaze’ drones and thousands more missiles.
Ukrainian military resistance comes at a high civilian cost, however, with thousands dead and towns devastated such as Mariupol and Kherson.
2) Peace deal: Ukraine and Russia reach an agreement with Putin withdrawing his forces when his demands are met
Pictured: The second round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations at the Belovezhskaya Pushcha on the Belarus-Poland border on March 3
Negotiators from both sides began talking just days after the war started, first on the Belarus-Ukraine border, then in Turkey and latterly in the capital Kyiv.
Mounting battlefield losses and crippling Western sanctions on the Russian economy could be pushing Putin to seek a face-saving way to end the conflict.
‘Ukraine may be able to compel the Russians to make a choice: to persist and suffer irreparable losses, or desist and achieve some compensatory peace,’ wrote Rob Johnson, a warfare expert at the University of Oxford, this week.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the two sides were ‘close to agreeing’ a deal that would see Ukraine accept neutrality modelled on the status of Sweden and Austria.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has already publicly acknowledged that his country will not join the Western NATO military alliance – a key demand from the Kremlin.
But though the chances of a deal have grown significantly in recent days, there is no sign of a ceasefire and Ukraine wants a full Russian withdrawal and security guarantees about its future.
Some Putin critics suspect that the diplomacy is a smokescreen.
‘Reminder that to Putin ‘ceasefire’ just means ‘reload’,’ dissident politician and former chess champion Garry Kasparov wrote on Twitter.
3) Domestic Russian change: Anti-war movement grows in Russia and oligarchs turn on their leader
Police officers detain a man during a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Manezhnaya square in central Moscow on March 13, 2022
Putin is tightening his grip over Russian society.
A crackdown on independent media and foreign news providers has cemented the dominance of the ultra-loyal Russian state media.
Thousands of anti-war demonstrators have been arrested, while a new law threatens up to 15 years in jail for spreading ‘fake news’ about the army.
There are signs of cracks in the ruling elite, with some oligarchs, MPs, and even private oil group Lukoil calling openly for a ceasefire or an end to fighting.
A Russian editor held up a sign saying ‘No War’ during a prime-time news broadcast on state TV this week.
Though not seen as likely at this stage, the possibility of Putin being brought down in a popular backlash or even a palace coup cannot be ruled out.
‘His personal security is very good and it will be very good until the moment it isn’t,’ said Eliot A. Cohen from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think-tank.
‘That’s happened numerous times in Soviet and Russian history.’
Huge sanctions have been placed on Russia and also its oligarchs – Russia’s elite who are also hugely influential, and close allies of Vladimir Putin.
However, it is often the case that an oligarch is powerful because Putin allows them to be, not the other way around.
4) Russian military success: Putin’s generals crush resistance with superior weapons and devastating artillery
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin in Moscow, Russia March 2
Given Russian troops’ superior weapons, air power and indiscriminate use of artillery, Western defence analysts say they are capable of grinding forward.
A senior European military official cautioned Wednesday against underestimating their ability to replenish and adapt their tactics.
They appear to have logistical and morale problems, with diesel and even engine lubricants in short supply, the official said.
‘But you need to keep it in perspective. All of that does not change the superiority of the Russian military,’ he said.
Moscow is openly recruiting mercenaries from Syria to supplement its forces, while also using the Wagner Group, a shadowy Russian private security company.
But even if they captured strategic cities such as Kyiv or the southern port of Odessa, Putin would then face the challenge of occupying them.
5) Conflict spreads: Russia attacks NATO country bringing the alliance into the war
Members of Pro-Russian separatists walk near a tank in front of a heavily damaged apartment in the pro-Russian separatists-controlled Donetsk, Ukraine on March 11, 2022
Ukraine has a border with four former Soviet states that are now members of the US-led NATO military alliance, which considers an attack on one member to be an attack against all.
Putin’s nostalgia for the Soviet Union and his pledge to protect Russian minorities – which are found in the Baltic States – has left an open question about his territorial ambitions.
Few expect Putin to openly attack a NATO member, which would run the risk of a nuclear attack, but analysts have warned about provocations that stop short of sparking a war.
Putin has ordered Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces onto high alert and Foreign Minister Lavrov has also warned that ‘World War Three can only be a nuclear war’.
Western analysts say such warnings should be taken as posturing to deter the United States and Europe from considering ideas such as a ‘no-fly zone’ over Ukraine.