Thursday

24th May 2018

US spy chiefs predict Syria, Ukraine wars to drag on

  • 'Putin is the first leader since Stalin to expand Russia’s territory,' Clapper noted (Photo: prameya)

The Syria war will get worse in 2016 and the Ukraine war won’t end, US intelligence chiefs have said, in what one of them called a “litany of doom”.

“Unpredictable instability has become the ‘new normal,’ and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future,” James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, told the Senate’s armed services committee in his yearly briefing on Tuesday (9 January).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Syria war is 'message to the West' on Russia's conventional capabilities (Photo: kremlin.ru)

He described his threat assessment as a “litany of doom”.

“In Syria, pro-regime forces have the initiative, having made some strategic gains near Aleppo and Latakia in the north, as well as in southern Syria,” he said.

He said the regime, despite being backed by Russian air power, is too weak to “accomplish strategic battlefield objectives”. But he said the other side cannot win either.

“The opposition has less equipment and fire-power, and its groups lack unity. They sometimes have competing battlefield interests and fight among themselves,” he said.

Noting that the war has displaced 11 million people, he added: “The record level of migrants, more than 1 million arriving in Europe, is likely to grow further this year.”

He said Islamic State was “somewhat on the defensive, and its territory and manpower are shrinking” but it was still a bigger threat than al-Qaeda.

He noted that its “foreign fighters”, which number 38,200, including 6,900 from Western countries, were its core threat in terms of overseas attacks.

“There are now more Sunni [Muslim] violent extremist groups, members, and safe havens than at any time in history,” he said.

Russia and Ukraine

Clapper also predicted that Russia would not back down in Ukraine.

“Moscow’s objectives in Ukraine will probably remain unchanged, including maintaining long-term influence over Kiev and frustrating its attempts to integrate into Western institutions,” he told the US senators.

“[Russian president] Putin is the first leader since Stalin to expand Russia’s territory,” he noted.

He said that despite its economic downturn, Russia continued its "aggressive military modernisation programme” and “continues to have the largest, and most capable, foreign nuclear-armed ballistic missile force”.

Vincent Stewart, the director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, echoed Clapper.

He said the Syrian regime was “unlikely to be militarily defeated or collapse in the near-term”.

He also said the Russia-backed regime offensive was likely to see moderate “opposition groups cooperating or merging with terrorist groups” for the sake of survival.

Message to West

He said Putin’s intervention in Syria was designed to “showcase” new cruise missiles and heavy bombers.

“These operations are designed to … send a message to the West about the manner in which the Russian military could operate in a major conventional conflict.”

He noted that Putin had “de-emphasised” the military approach to Ukraine.

But he said Russia was still ready to “rapidly redeploy troops to the [Ukraine] border".

He also described the Minsk 2 ceasefire deal, brokered by France and Germany, as an opportunity for Russia to “institutionalise influence within Ukraine without risking more sanctions”.

Russia 'will inspire jihadis'

US secretary of state John Kerry is to meet his Russian counterpart at a security conference in Munich, Germany, later this week.

But State Department spokesman James Kirby said on Tuesday the US did not expect Russia to contribute to the Syria peace process.

“We continue to see them act as if they believe there is a military solution to this conflict,” he said.

He noted that “many European nations are dealing with [a] heavy refugee flow, and we recognise that”.

But he added that prolongation of the Syria war posed a threat for Russia as well.

“They’ll get dragged into a conflict that won’t end … They will inspire the attraction of foreign fighters and jihadis, not just to Syria but even perhaps in their own country,” he said.

EU, US and Russia to 'pause' Syria war

Syria hostilities are to “pause” in one week and aid agencies are to have full access under a new accord which, Germany "hopes," will lead to fewer people fleeing to Europe.

Sofia summit: EU leaders search for a Trump strategy

"With friends like that, who needs enemies?" European Council Donald Tusk asked on Wednesday, as EU leaders were trying to come up with a reply to the US president's questioning of the transatlantic relationship.

Analysis

EU has no 'magic bullet' against US Iran sanctions

EU leaders in Sofia will discuss how they can protect the bloc's economic interests against US threats to sanction companies doing business in Iran. But their options are limited.

Opinion

Ratifying CETA after 'Achmea scandal' is anti-European

While few people in Europe have heard of the 'Achmea' ruling, the case will have far-reaching consequences. Member states must understand the implications of the case quickly - especially those considering ratifying the EU-Canada trade agreement.

News in Brief

  1. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  2. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  3. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  4. UK households hit with Brexit income loss
  5. Report: EU faces 10% cut in steel exports to US
  6. Australia wants more access to EU agricultural market
  7. CV of Italian PM candidate under scrutiny
  8. Puigdemont Spain extradition rejected by German court

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Visegrad Four 'nothing to hide' on rule of law issue
  2. GDPR does not (yet) give right to global oblivion
  3. Privacy Shield less relevant given GDPR, says data chief
  4. Unknown academic to lead Italy into EU clash
  5. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  6. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  7. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  8. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight