The Delusions Of CIA Chief William Burns

William Burns, CIA Director

CIA Director William Burns’ January 30, 2024 article in Foreign Affairs — Spycraft and Statecraft:

Transforming the CIA for an Age of Competition – is a shocking display of ignorance and misinformation about Russia, the state of the war in Ukraine and NATO’s military capabilities. Although Burn’s is an educated man and experienced diplomat, this article displays a profound arrogance seasoned with provably false claims. The so-called vision he presents for “transforming the CIA” is a childish fantasy and signals that the CIA is drifting towards being irrelevant as well as incompetent.

Let us begin with an examination of Burn’s characterization of the February 2022 “Special Military Operation.” According to Burn’s”

The post–Cold War era came to a definitive end the moment Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. I have spent much of the past two decades trying to understand the combustible combination of grievance, ambition, and insecurity that Russian President Vladimir Putin embodies.  . . .

That tragic and brutish fixation has already brought shame to Russia and exposed its weaknesses, from its one-dimensional economy to its inflated military prowess to its corrupt political system.

Putin’s war has already been a failure for Russia on many levels. His original goal of seizing Kyiv and subjugating Ukraine proved foolish and illusory. His military has suffered immense damage.

At least 315,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded, two-thirds of Russia’s prewar tank inventory has been destroyed, and Putin’s vaunted decades-long military modernization program has been hollowed out.

An intelligence chief like Burns is supposed to bring a non-partisan, objective perspective to an issue like Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine. Burns fails spectacularly on that count.

He refuses to acknowledge the role the CIA and Britain’s MI-6 played in sparking the 2014 coup that ousted democratically elected Ukrainian President Yanukovych, which culminated in the Ukrainian military attacking the Russian speaking citizens in the Donbass. That in turn sparked the now ten year civil war and the vote in Crimea to re-join the Russian Federation.

Burns is totally disingenuous. He pretends that the West played no role in the subsequent civil war that wracked the Donbass. He ignores the West’s repeated entreaties for Ukraine to join NATO – a firm redline for Vladimir Putin and the Russian Government. And he fails to acknowledge the West’s saber rattling as the U.S. European Command and NATO conducted annual joint military exercises with Ukraine where Russia was the featured foe.

Burns’ claims about Russia’s “one-dimensional” economy and weak military capability is beyond shocking. This is the kind of specious claim one normally would expect of a middling university student or a partisan hack. Russia’s economy is anything but one dimensional – it has a robust defense manufacturing capability, is a leader in the production of grain and oil and gas, and is one of the world leaders in supplying critical Rare Earth Elements (aka REE). According to the Foreign Policy Research Institute:

Russia is another major player in global REE supply chain management due to its massive mineral resources and a centuries-long tradition of mining and metal processing, particularly for military-industrial applications. Russia accounts for some 10% of global untapped supplies at around 12 million tons. Some cooperation with the U.S. is still ongoing, including titanium supply to Boeing by the state-owned VSMPO-Avisma. However, expanding U.S. reliance on Russia in a strategic area of REE is not currently viable because of the history of adversarial and competitive relations dating back to the Cold War. Moscow is considering increased investment in critical mineral infrastructure, and Russian corporations may be able to produce around 7,000 tons of REE concentrate by 2024, greatly enhancing leverage over supply chains and diminishing the country’s dependence on China.

Burns’ demonstrated failure to acknowledge the reality of Russia’s military capability perhaps explains why the West has been caught by surprise as Russia continues to attack the Ukrainian Army while rapidly expanding its own military force. Russia not only enjoys a decisive advantage in manpower, but its defense industry is also outpacing on a dramatic scale the ability of the United States and Europe to produce artillery pieces, artillery shells and combat vehicles.

Russia, in sharp contrast to the United States, has deployed operational, successful hypersonic missiles. U.S. efforts to replicate Russia’s success on this front have failed and there is no evidence that the United States can match even a fraction of Russia’s existing capability. Ditto for air defense systems. Russia is the world leader in producing combat-proven air defense systems, which include the S-400, S-500, and S-550.

After two years of combat in Ukraine, Russia has demonstrated that it can defeat and deter every advanced NATO system provided to Ukraine. Although touted as “game changers” when first supplied to Ukraine – I am referring to the HIMARS, the Javelin anti-tank guided missile, and the Patriot missile battery – these systems have proven to be expensive failures.

Burns then makes these outlandish claims:

Putin’s overblown ambitions have backfired in another way, too: they have prompted NATO to grow larger and stronger.

Although Putin’s repressive grip does not seem likely to weaken anytime soon, his war in Ukraine is quietly corroding his power at home.

Burns simply has not been paying attention to what has transpired in Ukraine over the course of the last 24 months. Ukraine was trained and equipped by the United States and NATO to be a proxy force that would shred the Russian military and erode Putin’s base of support. Although Ukraine was not a de jure member of NATO, it was, for all practical purposes, a de facto member.

Instead of devastating the Russian military, it is the Ukrainian Army that has suffered catastrophic losses. The fact that the average age of a front-line Ukrainian soldier is 43 years is clear evidence that it is Russia who is decimating Ukraine’s army, not the other way around.

Burns’ comment about Putin’s eroding political position is based on hope, not fact. If anything, Putin’s political support in Russia is stronger today than at the start of the Special Military Operation. Polling shows that public support for Putin hovers around 80%. What a contrast with the lagging political support for Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak, Emmanuel Macron, or Olaf Scholz of Germany.

Russia’s recent breakthrough in Avdeevka is not a one-off event. It is a harbinger of Ukraine’s impending collapse. Russia is pressing its advantage in manpower, sound military leadership, logistics, artillery, drones, and fixed-wing aircraft across the entire 1000 km front.

The Biden Administration continues its desperate attempts to persuade the Republican controlled House of Representatives to approve a $61 billion dollar aid package for Ukraine. Even if that money is approved, it will not change the trajectory of the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine is defeated and has no viable path forward to defeat Russia. The principal shortcoming is the lack of trained manpower. Even if Ukraine could magically produce 500,000 conscripts, those new soldiers would not be sufficiently trained to engage in simple combat operations for at least one year.

Ukraine does not have a year unless Russia decides to halt its advance and call an end to missile and rocket attacks on Ukraine’s logistic and military hubs. And that is not going to happen.

It is natural for politicians and government officials outside the United States to assume that an article written by someone of the stature of William Burns is credible and based on sound intelligence.

But that is not the case here. Burns is ignoring the realities on the ground in both Ukraine and Russia. You do not need to have access to Top Secret U.S. intelligence to realize that Ukraine is in trouble and that Russia – far from being weakened and isolated – is resilient, strong and busy forming a new world order with China and other countries of the Global South.

Just as the end of World War II brought about a new world order with the United States in a dominant position, both economically and militarily, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has set off a chain of events that is eroding U.S. supremacy and creating a vacuum that Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa are working to fill.

The era of the United States calling the shots and coercing other nations to accede to its policies is coming to an end. When the history of this period is written, the war in Ukraine, coupled with the West’s effort to destroy Russia, will be seen as the spark that ignited the fire that burned down the power of the Colonial West.

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