CIA chief warns Ukraine could lose war this year without US boost

CIA chief warns Ukraine could lose war this year without US boost

CIA Director Bill Burns on Thursday said Ukraine could lose the war by the end of 2024 without more funding from the U.S., delivering his most specific comments yet on a possible defeat as Kyiv struggles against a much larger Russian army.

“With the boost that would come from military assistance‚ both practically and psychologically — Ukrainians are entirely capable of holding their own through 2024 and puncturing Putin’s arrogant view that time is on his side,” Burns said Thursday during an event at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Burns argued there is a “huge amount at stake” for not only Ukraine, but wider European security and that of U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific.

“Without supplemental assistance, this picture is a lot more dire, and there is a very real risk that the Ukrainians could lose on the battlefield by the end of 2024. Or at least put Putin in a position where he could essentially dictate the terms of a political settlement,” he continued.

Burns has previously warned that without Congress passing any supplemental aid for Ukraine, the embattled nation would struggle against Russian forces. Other Biden administration officials have also warned that Ukraine faces a grim future without more U.S. help, but have yet to place a specific timeline on a potential Ukrainian defeat.

Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, press secretary for the Pentagon, said Thursday that the U.S. was focused on getting Ukraine the assistance it needs, when asked about the CIA director’s comments.

“What we’re focused on right now is ensuring that we can get Ukraine the assistance that it needs,” Ryder told reporters. “The Ukrainians have demonstrated their resilience and their courage under fire. We have no reason to think that’s going to change. But we also understand the dire situation there right now.”

Pressure has mounted on Congress in recent months to pass additional funding for Ukraine to fend off Russia’s invasion. Sharp divisions among lawmakers have stalled aid from passing for more than a year, with mostly far-right lawmakers expressing concern about continuing to fund Ukraine.

In the House, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) unveiled a series of foreign aid bills this week that would include funding for Ukraine, Israel, allies in the Indo-Pacific and other national security priorities. Votes on separate portions of the package are expected by this weekend.

The bills follow months of delays after Johnson rejected the Senate’s $95 billion foreign aid bill, which would have provided about $60 billion in aid to Ukraine. Several Republicans have lambasted further aid for Ukraine, arguing U.S. funding should go toward domestic issues, including the country’s southern border.

Congress has not passed a Ukraine aid package since the end of 2022, and all available funds dried up around the end of 2023, leaving Kyiv in a perilous position with depleting air defenses and artillery, both crucial in the war.

Russia is now advancing on the battlefield across eastern Ukraine, taking the town of Avdiivka in February and threatening now to seize Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region, which could provide Russian forces a path toward bigger cities.

The Institute for the Study of War also assessed this week that Russia is gaining the initiative on the battlefield because of the delayed U.S. aid and predicted that without any more assistance, the Ukrainians could lose significant ground this year and in 2025.

Burns on Thursday said how Congress chooses to act will send a larger message to the U.S.’s adversaries and allies.

“This is really a question of whether or not our adversaries understand our reliability and determination and whether our allies and partners [understand] that as well,” he said. “So the consequences are enormous right now for what the House of Representatives is considering.”

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