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Momentum Shifts Toward Russia in Ukraine War, US Spies Warn

(Bloomberg) -- The deadlock in Ukraine is “shifting the momentum” in the war there in Moscow’s favor, US intelligence agencies told senators on Monday.

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Moscow has made continual, incremental battlefield gains since late 2023 and benefits from uncertainties about the future of military assistance from the US and allies, the top intelligence officials told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee in their annual presentation on the biggest “worldwide threats” facing the US.

“This deadlock plays to Russia’s strategic military advantages and is increasingly shifting the momentum in Moscow’s favor,” they said.

Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns testified that “the Ukrainians are not running out of courage and tenacity. They’re running out of ammunition, and we’re running out of time to help them.

Burns warned that without additional US military assistance, “Ukraine is likely to lose ground — and likely significant ground — in 2024.” He said Russia is interested in the “theater of negotiations” over ending the war, he said, and wasn’t ready to make significant compromises to do so.

US intelligence officials frequently offer blunt and politically sensitive assessments at the worldwide threats hearings, and Monday was no exception both in the written report and in testimony led by officials including Avril Haines, director of of the Office of National Intelligence, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Burns.

Hamas’s Persistence

Their joint report warned of the risk of regional escalation in the Israel-Hamas war. It said armed resistance to Israel by Hamas is likely to continue for years and “it is likely that the Gaza conflict will have a generational impact on terrorism,” they said. It was an implicit rejection of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge that Israel’s current offensive will wipe out the group that’s considered a terrorist organization by the US and European Union.

The report said US spy agencies assess that “Iranian leaders did not orchestrate nor had foreknowledge of the Hamas attack against Israel” on Oct. 7 that sparked months of fighting.

Beyond such external events, the report warned that Russia, China and Iran may all seek to influence the 2024 US presidential elections. Beijing aims to sideline critics of China and magnify US societal divisions, the report found.

The intelligence officials warned of increasing collaboration between Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, the four countries the US regularly lists as its primary threats and competitors. It cited Beijing’s economic and security assistance to Russia in its war with Ukraine, including its provision of dual-use material and components for weapons.

Their report also warned of an “ambitious but anxious China,” as President Xi Jinping continues to confront slowing economic growth and widespread corruption in the Chinese military.

Chinese leaders “almost certainly are concerned about the ongoing impact of corruption on the military’s capabilities and reliability, judging from a purge of high-level officers including the defense,” the report found.

Read More: US Intelligence Shows Flawed China Missiles Led Xi to Purge Army

The government in Beijing believes that its domestic challenges are compounded by external pressures from Washington and beyond, the spy chiefs said.

“China views Washington‘s competitive measures against Beijing as part of a broader US diplomatic, economic. military and technological effort to contain its rise,” they said. Still, their report said Chinese officials will continue to seek opportunities to reduce tension with Washington when they believe it furthers their interests.

(Updates with CIA director’s comment in fifth paragraph)

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