Speed Reads


CIA director says Putin 'entirely too confident' his 'cannon fodder' can 'grind down' Ukraine's army

Since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, battlefield setbacks have forced it to shift from trying to seize the entire country and topple its government to attempting a full conquest of its eastern Donbas region. And "in recent weeks, Russia has likely changed its approach again," Britain's Ministry of Defense assesses. "Its campaign now likely primarily seeks to degrade the Ukrainian military, rather than being focused on seizing substantial new territory," banking that "Russia's advantages in population and resources will eventually exhaust Ukraine."

CIA Director William Burns suggested Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was aiming too high even with those lowered objectives. When he met with his Russian counterpart last November, Burns told CBS's Face the Nation, he sensed a "cockiness and hubris" that reflected Putin's beliefs "he can make time work for him" and "grind down the Ukrainians."

"I think Putin is right now entirely too confident of his ability . . . to wear down Ukraine, to grind away, and that's what he's giving every evidence that he's determined to do right now," Burns said. "Putin is certainly not a sentimentalist about the loss of Russian life or, you know, the huge losses that he's taken in terms of Russian armaments," but "at some point, he's going to have to face up to increasing costs as well, in coffins coming home to some of the poorest parts of Russia," where many of the conscripts "being thrown as cannon fodder" are pulled from, as well as the huge economic and reputational damage.

Well, "Russia is much bigger," and "it could just grind Ukraine out," retired British Air Marshal Edward Stringer tells The Associated Press. "It could force Ukraine to run out of bullets by putting one Russian in front of every bullet until Ukraine runs out of bullets before Putin runs out of Russians."

"The specter of limitless Russian manpower is a myth," the Institute for the Study of War countered Sunday. "Russia can mobilize more manpower, and Putin will likely do so rather than give up," but "the pool of reservists appropriate for front-line fighting is finite," especially after last fall's deeply unpopular draft of 300,000 conscripts.

About 800,000 young men turn 18 each year in Russia, ISW reported. and "expanding conscription much beyond the 260,000 of those already forced into military service" each normal year would net unsuitable conscripts and also "pull too many young men out of the Russian economy, which Putin is simultaneously attempting to put on a war footing."