Saturday

24th Feb 2024

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).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • 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.

Russian oligarchs failed to get off EU blacklist

Hungary failed to get three Russian and three Chinese names deleted, as the EU approved its 13th package of sanctions ahead of an anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Feature

Only Palestinians paying thousands of dollars leave Gaza

Despite the high risk of dying from war, starvation or disease, Gazans are still not allowed to enter Egypt. Except those who bribe the authorities. And the EU mission EUBAM Rafah cannot be deployed due to security reasons.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us