Ukraine war not likely to end anytime soon, says top US spy

View shows a thermal power plant damaged by recent Russian missile strikes in Ukraine

By Jonathan Landay and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin sees domestic and international developments trending in his favor and likely will press on with aggressive tactics in Ukraine, but the war is unlikely to end soon, the top U.S. intelligence official said on Thursday.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia has intensified strikes on Ukraine's infrastructure to hamper Kyiv's ability to move arms and troops, slow defense production and force it to consider negotiations.

"Putin's increasingly aggressive tactics against Ukraine, such as strikes on Ukraine's electricity infrastructure, are intended to impress Ukraine that continuing to fight will only increase the damage to Ukraine and offer no plausible path to victory," she said.

"These aggressive tactics are likely to continue and the war is unlikely to end anytime soon," Haines said.

She and Lieutenant General Jeffrey Kruse, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, were testifying before the committee on the intelligence community's 2024 assessment of the threats facing the United States.

On China, considered by the United States as its main global rival, Haines said Chinese President Xi Jinping and his top leaders expect some future instability in relations with Washington.

But, she continued, they will seek to project stability in those ties as their top priority is grappling with China's troubled economy.

Rather than pursue policies to stimulate consumer spending or encourage investment, they appears to be “doubling down” on a long-term strategy driven by manufacturing and technological innovation, she said.

That approach, however, “will almost certainly deepen public and investment pessimism over the near term,” she said.

China is grappling with economic headwinds, including tepid domestic demand, high youth unemployment, and a property crisis. Beijing has ramped up infrastructure investment and turned to investing in high-tech manufacturing, but some economists warn that could exacerbate long-term imbalances.

Xi and his top leaders are growing concerned about the U.S. ability to disrupt China’s technological goals and have “modified their approach to economic retaliation against the United States” by “imposing at least some tangible costs on U.S. firms,” Haines said.

She apparently was referring to raids on U.S. companies that have chilled China's foreign business environment, and Beijing’s expansion of restrictions on U.S. technology applications over national security concerns.

However, U.S. intelligence agencies assess that over the coming months, China likely will limit such economic retaliation to avoid damaging its domestic economy, she said.

“In particular, the significant decline in foreign direct investment in China, down 77 percent in 2023, is likely to prompt the PRC (Peoples Republic of China) to be more measured in its responses absent an unexpected escalation by the United States,” she said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Idrees Ali; additional reporting by Michel Martina; editing by Jonathan Oatis)