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CIA Director William Burns: It will be the next 6 months

CIA Director William Burns said Thursday the next six months would be “critical.” war in Ukraine Russian President Vladimir Putin has bet that the West’s waning interest and “political fatigue” could offer his military a new chance to make gains on the battlefield.

“Putin, I think right now, is banking on making time work for him,” Burns said. “The key will be on the battlefield in the next six months, it seems to us.”

“Breaking through Putin’s hubris and making it clear that not only will he not be able to make any further advances in Ukraine, but that with each passing month he is running an ever-increasing risk of losing the territory he has been illegally seizing from the Ukraine has confiscated.” He continued. “So I think this next period is going to be absolutely crucial.”

CIA Director William Burns
CIA Director William Burns speaks during an event during the Trainor Award ceremony at Georgetown University February 2, 2023 in Washington, DC

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The career diplomat and former ambassador to Russia said Western intelligence has shown that Moscow is not interested in peace talks, despite occasional reports to the contrary.

“We don’t think Putin is serious about negotiations, despite what you sometimes hear about it,” Burns said.

His comments came amid continued warnings from Ukrainian officials that Russia was preparing to launch a significant offensive against the eastern part of the country, where missile attacks have already intensified this week. The war will enter its second year later this month.

Burns participated in a moderated discussion at Georgetown University on Thursday, where he received the Trainor Award for Excellence in the Conduct of Diplomacy. A former assistant secretary of state, Burns also served as ambassador to Jordan and worked during the Obama administration to initiate backdoor talks with Iran that paved the way for the 2015 nuclear deal.

On Thursday he called the apparently deepening military ties between Russia and Iran “particularly worrying”. Iran is known for this provided drones and relevant training for Putin’s armed forces in Ukraine.

Burns said while he was in Kyiv for “about 30 hours”. Last month At a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his advisers, at least six of those hours were spent “in bomb shelters” as Russian forces conducted two separate strikes on civilian targets using Iranian Shahed 136 unmanned aerial vehicles.

Speaking about Iran, he said internal instability caused by widespread demonstrations had “increasingly unsettled” the regime in Tehran.

“What’s going on internally leads to more aggressive behavior externally,” he said.

“I think as we look to 2023 — and my last trip reinforced that — the Middle East will again become a particularly complicated set of challenges for American policymakers, too,” Burns said.

He spoke ominously about recent talks he’s had in the region with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, which have left him “fairly concerned” about the potential for greater violence.

“Much of what we see today bears a very unfortunate resemblance” to what happened before the Second Intifada more than two decades ago, he said. “That’s what I’m worried about.”

Burns also warned that the Russian-backed mercenary organization known as the Wagner group “extended its influence” to a number of countries in Africa, including Mali and Burkina Faso.

“This is a deeply unhealthy development and we are working very hard to counteract it because it is currently threatening Africans across the continent,” he said.

The CIA chief also said that China remains the “greatest geopolitical challenge” facing the US in the coming decades, calling the competition with Beijing “unique in its scale.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping “isn’t lacking in ambition, but he’s not 10 feet tall,” Burns said. “He has many challenges at home, be it the zero-COVID policy, which has not gone as planned, or the economic growth numbers – which could improve over the next few years – but have been historically low in recent years too. We have a good hand to play, but we just have to play it systematically and thoughtfully.”

He said Xi is closely monitoring Putin’s experience in Ukraine and, while likely “unnerved” by Russia’s lackluster military performance, has so far remained “committed” to the partnership the two countries declared last year.

“But the truth is that there are actually some limitations as well, simply because I think – as far as we can tell today – Xi Jinping and the Chinese leadership have been very reluctant to supply Russia with these types of deadly weapons to use in Ukraine.” , which we know the Russians are very interested in,” Burns said.

On Xi’s own regional ambitions, Burns said US intelligence has shown that Xi directed the People’s Liberation Army to prepare for a successful military invasion of Taiwan by 2027.

“Well, that doesn’t mean he’s decided to invade in 2027 or any other year, but it’s a reminder of the seriousness of his focus and ambition,” Burns said.

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