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CIA director warns Ukraine could lose war with Russia by the end of the year unless US sends more aid

<i>(Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/AP) via CNN Newsource</i><br/>CIA Director Bill Burns listens to testimony during a House committee hearing in March 2022
(Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/AP) via CNN Newsource
CIA Director Bill Burns listens to testimony during a House committee hearing in March 2022

By Katie Bo Lillis, CNN

(CNN) — CIA Director Bill Burns on Thursday warned that unless US sends more military support, Ukraine could “lose” the war against Russia by the end of the year.

His comments mark one of the starkest warnings to date from the Biden administration on the stakes in Ukraine as Congress debates whether to approve a long-delayed aid package to Kyiv.

Just a month ago, Burns had warned in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that if Congress did not move to authorize additional support — long hampered by conservative opposition in the House of Representatives — “Ukraine is likely to lose ground and probably significant ground in 2024.”

But on Thursday during an appearance at the George W. Bush Center, he warned that Ukraine could be forced to capitulate entirely.

“With the boost that would come from military assistance, both practically and psychologically, I think the Ukrainians are entirely capable of holding their own through 2024,” Burns said.

“Without supplemental assistance, the picture is a lot more dire,” he continued. “There is a very real risk that the Ukrainians could lose on the battlefield by the end of 2024, or at least put Putin in a position where he could dictate the terms of a political settlement.”

The warning comes as the Biden administration is trying to seize an unexpected political opportunity on Capitol Hill to push the House to pass the long-stalled aid package. The legislation also includes aid for Israel, and as a result, House Speaker Mike Johnson has been under pressure to move the package after the Iranian attack on Israel over the weekend. In an effort to satisfy divided factions of the GOP, some of whom support and some of whom oppose aid for Ukraine, he has split the legislation into separate bills and the Ukraine aid portion is expected to come up for a vote on Saturday night.

Burns on Thursday did not detail further how he defined “lose,” and one source familiar with Western intelligence noted to CNN that if the package doesn’t pass, officials still believe Russia is unlikely to overrun Ukraine from coast to coast.

But Russia could retake significant additional territory then effectively freeze the battlelines in place in a de facto ceasefire, similar to what happened after Moscow annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea in 2014. That would still be deemed “a loss.”

Burns detailed the dire need for basic ammunition that Ukraine faces on the battlefield. He recounted two battalions — 2,000-plus man units — that had “15 artillery rounds per day” and “a grand total of 42 mortar rounds,” respectively.

“They were overwhelmed, and it wasn’t for lack of bravery or determination on their part, and my worry is that we’re going to see more Avdiivkas in the future without supplemental assistance,” Burns said, referring to a Ukrainian city recently lost to Russian advances.

Ukraine’s shortage of ammunition and military equipment resulting from the US and its allies’ struggle to resupply the country’s military has had an increasingly dire effect on the battlefield, CNN has previously reported.

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