US intelligence experts have said they expect a “reduced tempo” in fighting in Ukraine to last several months, with both sides looking to prepare for a counter-offensive after the winter.
The Director of National Intelligence said that while this might be the case, there is no evidence of a reduced Ukrainian will to resist and morale hasn’t faded, despite persistent Russian attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure.
Avril Haines told the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in California: “We’re seeing a kind of a reduced tempo already of the conflict … and we expect that’s likely to be what we see in the coming months”.
She added that both militaries would be looking to refit and supply for a counter-offensive after the winter, but said there is a “fair amount of scepticism as to whether or not the Russians will be in fact prepared to do that”, adding that prospects for Ukraine were more optimistic.
Ms Haines said Moscow’s aim to destroy Ukraine’s critical infrastructure was partly to undermine the will of Ukrainians to resist but added that we are not seeing “any evidence of that being undermined right now”.
Intense Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy facilities have resulted in emergency blackouts and water and electricity shortages, affecting millions of people across the country.
As winter sets in and temperatures drop, Ukrainian officials have appealed to allies to issue monetary and physical aid including generators.
Despite significant strategic setbacks for Russia, including Moscow’s withdrawal from the southern city of Kherson in November, it is continuing its efforts to dig in for the winter and to continue attacks on other regions.
Not clear Putin knows how challenged his forces are
Ms Haines said she thought Vladimir Putin had been surprised that his military has not accomplished more in the war.
She said: “I do think he is becoming more informed of the challenges that the military faces in Russia. But it’s still not
clear to us that he has a full picture at this stage of just how challenged they are … we see shortages of ammunition, for morale, supply issues, logistics, a whole series of concerns that they’re facing.”
In its daily intelligence briefing, the UK Ministry of Defence said on Saturday that Moscow is continuing to invest a “large element of their overall military effort and firepower” along the front line near the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
The Ukrainian town has faced Russian attacks since August.
It is strategically valuable due to its location, and if captured by Russia, could allow them to threaten Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
The ministry said Russia’s likely plan is to encircle the town with advances to the north and south.