The C.I.A. director says Putin believes the U.S. will forget about Ukraine.


The C.I.A. director says that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia believes that America will suffer from “attention deficit disorder” and lose interest and resolve in the Ukraine war.

William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, said that Mr. Putin is making a bet that he can succeed in a war of attrition against the Ukrainian military. Over the rest of the year, he said, Mr. Putin believes he can “wear down the Ukrainian military” and then strangle the Ukrainian economy.

The Russians are slowly moving forward in the grinding war in the Donbas, Mr. Burns said. They have, he said, shifted tactics to a “more comfortable way of war,” focusing on destroying Ukrainian targets.

With such an approach, Mr. Putin believes that he can wear down both Europe and the United States, Mr. Burns said.

“Putin’s view of Americans is we always suffer from attention deficit disorder and get distracted by something else,” he said during a question-and-answer session at the Aspen Security Conference in Colorado.

But Mr. Burns argued that from the beginning of the war Mr. Putin has consistently misjudged both the Ukrainians’ will to fight and Western resolve to help.

“And I think he’s wrong now,” Mr. Burns said.

Mr. Putin now relies on an ever-smaller circle of hard-line advisers, and it is not “career enhancing” for those officials to contradict the Russian president, Mr. Burns said.

It is difficult to understand Mr. Putin’s tactical choices, Mr. Burns said, without understanding his mind-set and appetite for risk.

“He is relentlessly suspicious, always attuned to vulnerabilities that he can take advantage of,” Mr. Burns said. “He is not a big believer in our better angels.”

Mikk Marran, the head of Estonia’s foreign intelligence service, said he was cautiously optimistic that Ukraine would eventually mount counteroffensives and reclaim some lost territory.

“I’m cautiously confident that Ukraine will defeat the Russian army in Ukraine sooner or later,” Mr. Marran said, speaking at a session at the Aspen conference after Mr. Burns. “It will not come easily, it will take time. And Ukraine probably might not be able to liberate all the occupied territories, but strategically speaking, Putin will not succeed in his ambition of taking Kyiv and the majority of Ukraine.”

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