NATIONAL NEWS

US misjudged Ukraine’s will to fight Russia, officials admit

Mar 10, 2022, 12:43 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:38 pm
(L-R) FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, Director...
(L-R) FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA Director William Burns, and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. General Scott Berrier testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on March 10, 2022, in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on worldwide threats. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top U.S. intelligence officials admitted Thursday that they underestimated Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against Russia’s invasion, a mistake for intelligence agencies that have otherwise been lauded for accurately predicting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intention to launch a war.

“My view was that, based on a variety of factors, that the Ukrainians were not as ready as I thought they should be,” said Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. “Therefore, I questioned their will to fight. That was a bad assessment on my part because they have fought bravely and honorably and are doing the right thing.”

The White House has faced Republican criticism that it isn’t providing enough weapons or intelligence to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Biden administration is currently opposed to a Polish plan to donate old Russian-made warplanes to Ukraine, out of concern that Putin may view that as an escalation by the U.S. or NATO.

Berrier testified alongside other top officials before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Generally, U.S. intelligence agencies have won praise from lawmakers of both political parties for their handling of the crisis.

Much of the hearing focused on the unprecedented U.S. campaign to declassify intelligence about alleged attempts by Russia to create a fake pretext for its invasion. Even though Putin ordered the invasion anyway, lawmakers say the campaign helped develop support for sanctions that have crippled Russia’s economy and pushed previously reluctant Western countries to give military aid to Ukraine.

Two weeks into its invasion, Russia has failed to win control of Ukraine’s airspace or subdue the capital of Kyiv or other major cities. But the war has had devastating consequences already: An airstrike hitting a maternity hospital, attacks on nuclear plants, and more than 2 million refugees having already fled the country with accounts of possible war crimes.

There’s no sign Putin intends to de-escalate. Russian propaganda outlets in recent days have promoted false theories that the U.S. and Ukraine are developing chemical weapons. The White House in turn has warned Russia is setting the pretext for its own chemical or biological attack.

Berrier, who leads the Pentagon’s primary intelligence arm, said at Thursday’s hearing that just as Putin appeared to have misjudged his army’s ability to subdue Ukraine’s much smaller armed forces, so did the U.S.

“We made some assumptions about his assumptions, which proved to be very, very flawed,” said Berrier. “I think assessing will, morale, and a will to fight is a very difficult analytical task. We had different inputs from different organizations and we — at least from my perspective as the director — I did not do as well as I could have.”

Berrier’s admission follows another misjudgment in Afghanistan, whose U.S-backed government collapsed far more quickly to the Taliban than Washington expected. Officials believed the Afghan forces — long trained and funded by the U.S. — could hold out for potentially months after the American withdrawal. Instead, lacking U.S. air power and intelligence support, Afghan forces gave up many cities without a fight last summer.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said that Putin had underestimated the resistance he would face from the Ukrainians. But Haines added: “We did not do as well in terms of predicting the military challenges that he has encountered with his own military.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican who questioned Berrier and Haines, noted that assessing a foreign military’s will to fight was particularly difficult.

“But these mistakes had potentially real-world policy implications about the willingness of the president or other NATO leaders to provide weapons that they thought might have fallen into the hands of Russians in a matter of hours,” he said.

Cotton and several other Republicans on the intelligence committee criticized the Biden administration’s current refusal to support a Polish plan to donate Russian-made warplanes to Ukraine. Biden administration officials have warned that Putin might view that as an escalation of the conflict. They say planes would go beyond the weapons the Pentagon and Western allies have already given Ukraine, including anti-tank systems and surface-to-air missiles to shoot down Russian aircraft.

Asked if the White House was pressuring analysts to assess that the transfer of planes would be seen as escalatory, Haines responded that objectivity was a “core ethic” of intelligence.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

FILE: A sign is posted on the exterior of Twitter headquarters on April 26, 2017 in San Francisco, ...
Tom Krisher, Matt O'Brien and Randall Chase, Associated Press

Musk offers to end legal fight, pay $44B to buy Twitter

Elon Musk is abandoning his legal battle to back out of buying Twitter by offering to go through with his original $44 billion bid for the social media platform.
14 hours ago
FLINT, MI - JANUARY 13:   The Flint Water Plant tower is shown January 13, 2016 in Flint, Michigan....
ED WHITE, Associated Press

Judge tosses charges against 7 people in Flint water crisis

A judge has dismissed charges against seven people in the Flint water scandal, including two former state health officials blamed for deaths from Legionnaires’ disease.
14 hours ago
FILE: Loretta Lynn performs during the 16th Annual Americana Music Festival & Conference at Ascend ...
Kristin M. Hall, AP Entertainment Writer

Loretta Lynn, coal miner’s daughter and country queen, dies

Loretta Lynn, the Kentucky coal miner’s daughter who became a pillar of country music, has died. She was 90.
14 hours ago
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, introduces himself as a member of a n...
Ashley Imlay, KSL.com & Aimee Cobabe, KSL NewsRadio

Supreme Court declines to hear Utah gun rights activist’s appeal to overturn bump stock ban

A prominent Utah gun rights activist has lost his bid to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the federal bump stock ban.
14 hours ago
...
Associated Press

CDC drops traveler health notices for individual countries

The CDC is doing away with notices about the COVID-19 risk of visiting specific countries.
2 days ago
WILMINGTON, NC - SEPTEMBER 23: Former President Donald Trump arrives at a Save America Rally at the...
Associated Press

Trump files $475 million defamation lawsuit against CNN

Former President Donald Trump has gone to court against CNN, a familiar target when he was president.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
US misjudged Ukraine’s will to fight Russia, officials admit