Russia will have to rely on nukes, cyberattacks, and China since its military is being thrashed in Ukraine, US intel director says

Russia will have to rely on nukes, cyberattacks, and China since its military is being thrashed in Ukraine, US intel director says
Russian Yars ballistic nuclear missiles on mobile launchers roll through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade rehearsals on May 6, 2018 in Moscow, Russia.Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
  • Russia's military losses in Ukraine will leave it reliant on "asymmetric" options, the US intel director said.
  • Russia will need to rebuild for years to pose a substantial conventional military threat, she added.

Russia's high losses and wasted resources in Ukraine have made it less of a traditional military threat and will leave it reliant on "asymmetric" options such as nuclear weapons, cyberattacks, and space technology, and other countries like China, the US intelligence director said Wednesday.

At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said Russia "has suffered losses that will require years of rebuilding and leave it less capable of posing a conventional military threat."

As a result, Haines said, "Russia will become even more reliant on asymmetric options such as nuclear, cyber, space capabilities, and on China."

She also noted that Moscow will have future trouble operating as a leading power both in Eurasia and "on the global stage" because of both its weakened status as a military power and global backlash against Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine a little over a year ago.

Russia's strategic failures in Ukraine, from botched strategies to substantial casualties, estimated to be nearing 200,000 killed or wounded, have been well documented since the beginning of its invasion. Putin has made repeated nuclear threats as his invasion struggles to achieve its objectives, and his threats of using nuclear weapons have received widespread attention and condemnation. As recent as late February, Russia suspended its participation in a major nuclear arms control pact with the US, leaving potential for expanded arsenals and the start of a "dangerous new nuclear era."


Discussions on Russia's relationship with China have also been ongoing, including speculation that Beijing might be considering sending lethal aid to Russia. The US and other partner nations have warned of "consequences" if Beijing takes that step. China has in turn criticized the West for its provision of weapons to Ukraine.

Though Beijing claims to be neutral in the war, experts say that China does not want to see Putin lose the fight or emerge humiliated by its outcome. China "doesn't want the war to drag on with all the attendant instability, but it doesn't want Russia to lose or the regime to collapse," Susan Thornton, former acting assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department, recently told Insider.

But Thornton also said that Beijing doesn't want to get too involved in the war and doubts that China would provide weapons to Russia. "But there are a lot of Chinese companies and it's a big country — things can happen, and if there are shipments, they will be detected and things will get worse," Thornton added.

Haines' comments on Wednesday echo the sentiments of other US officials on Russia's status after its war in Ukraine. In late February, a top Pentagon official told lawmakers Russia had lost the war and will emerge from war in Ukraine a "shattered military power."

The official, Colin Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, said last November that Russia will "emerge from this war weaker than it went in."


And top military experts have offered similar assessments. "Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been a strategic defeat. So far, the Kremlin has not been able to achieve its strategic-level objectives, and it has incurred significant costs. Russia's military is going to have to be rebuilt," George Barros, a military analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Insider in September.