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Southern Illinois University

Intelligence Committee Chair reflects on Russia's war with Ukraine

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Adam Schiff SIU Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

Screenshot: Congressman Adam Schiff, D-California, shared his analysis on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict during a virtual conversation with John Shaw of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale Tuesday.

Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, shared his analysis of the conflict in the Ukraine during a virtual conversation Tuesday presented by the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

The California Democrat gave the U.S. intelligence community high marks for its assessments leading up to the war in Ukraine.

“I think their assessments were spot on about what Russia was planning and the fact is (because) they were so spot on, the president was able to disclose that intelligence in advance of the war,” he said. “I think that stripped bare the nakedness of Putin’s aggression and helped us to build support for those really powerful sanctions in record speed.”

Schiff said he does not know what to expect in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict going forward and said Russian President Vladimir Putin underestimated the resistance his troops would face.

“No one really knows how this is supposed to end and I think, in part, it’s because Putin’s plans were built on a tragic miscalculation: that if not greeted as liberators, Ukrainians would not resist and certainly wouldn’t resist with the kind of ferocity we have seen,” he said.

He said that he believes the Russian president also has made other errors in his plans.

“I think Putin also overestimated the competence of the military, underestimated the ability of NATO and the United States and our allies to get our act together in terms of sanctions and underestimated the weapons that we would be willing to provide the Ukraine,” he said. “Because the war was built on such profound miscalculations – and the CIA was right – that he would double-down in the face of obstacles.”

He said the recently announced plans of the Russians to put more of an emphasis on military actions in eastern Ukraine is one result of this “doubling-down.”

“This is not because that was the Russian game plan all along as they are intimating, but rather because they can’t sustain what they’re doing in the face of this vigorous Ukrainian opposition,” Schiff explained.

Additionally, Schiff said he believes Putin underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainian people, especially President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Here again, was a miscalculation by Putin who believed that Zelenskyy was weak and never imagined he would display the leadership and courage that he has. Had Zelenskyy not showed that courage and inspired them to fight, it would have been a very different story in Ukraine. Zelenskyy deserves enormous credit,” he said.

The congressman went on to suggest Putin’s miscalculations regarding Ukraine may lead to an unwinnable war.

“Putin has staked so much on this, it’s difficult to see how he backs down,” he said, adding he believes the U.S. and NATO should continue to support Ukraine with military equipment, economic and humanitarian assistance. “I think that the longer this goes on, the more unsustainable it is for Russia and the more they’re forced to trim their hopes and expectations in Ukraine.”

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