The director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has the power to break what he described as a stalemate between Russian and Ukrainian forces by officially declaring war on Ukraine.
Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier was testifying at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday when Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas asked him which side in the Russia-Ukraine War he believes “faces the greater possibility of a decisive breakout.” Berrier responded that he believes if Russia doesn’t declare war and mobilizes, the stalemate will last for a while and he doesn’t anticipate either side breaking out.
After initially focusing its assault in Ukraine on major cities like the capital Kyiv, Russia initiated a second phase of the war last month in Ukraine’s Donbas region, which houses two Russian-backed separatist groups. The Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Institute for the Study of War (ISD), a US think tank, have recently said that the Ukrainian counteroffensive was seeing success in driving back russian forces in the east around Kharkiv – though Russia has not addressed these reports to confirm or deny them. Still, Berrier’s testimony highlights assessments that neither side currently has the decisive upper hand in the conflict.
When Cotton asked Berrier about the state of the fighting between Russia and Ukraine during the hearing, he responded: “Senator, I think I would characterize it as the Russians aren’t winning and the Ukrainians aren’t winning. We’re at a bit of a stalemate here.”
Berrier refrained from saying whether he believed Russia or Ukraine faced a greater risk from a stalemate, citing the need to see how the situation evolves.
When Cotton noted that a stalemate means both sides will lose weapons, personnel, and other equipment during the continued but indecisive fighting, Berrier said that he does believe the situation is “attrition warfare.”
“It depends [on] how well Ukrainians can maintain what they have going on with weapons and ammunition, and how the Russians decide to deal with that either through a mobilization or not and decide to go with what they have in the theater right now,” Berrier said.
Berrier also said that he believes Ukraine is more capable than Russia of generating additional combat power via trained and motivated troops after being asked by Cotton which side he thinks has the upper hand in that regard.
“I think the Ukrainians have it right in terms of grit and how they face the defense of their nation. I’m not sure that Russian soldiers from the far-flung military districts really understand that,” Berrier said.
After saying that he believes Russia has the power to break the stalemate by officially declaring war, Berrier noted that Russia would add troops and ammunition to the fight after such a declaration to bolster its strength, even if he believes Russian soldiers may not be as well -trained and competent as their counterparts.
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace theorized that Putin would use Moscow’s recent Victory Day celebrations on Monday to officially declare war on Ukraine. But the longtime Russian leader averted those expectations by largely focusing on defending Russia’s rationale behind invading Ukraine during his speech at the high-scale military parade.
Experts have said that declaring war on Ukraine would give Putin unprecedented powers over Russia, including allowing him to mobilize reserve troops into Ukraine, draft conscripts, and wield more control over Russian citizens, Newsweek previously reported.
Newsweek reached out to the Kremlin and defense ministries of Russia and Ukraine for comment.