Russia’s war in Ukraine has had a “corrosive” effect on Russian President Vladimir Putin, CIA director William Burns said on Saturday, with discontent over the conflict creating a “once in a generation opportunity” for the agency. spy.
Speaking at the Ditchley Foundation in the UK, Burns called Putin’s invasion of Ukraine “the most immediate and acute geopolitical challenge to the international order today”.
The address came a week after the leader of Wagner’s mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, led his forces in a brief mutiny against Russian military command.
In doing so, he accused Russia of targeting its forces with deadly missile strikes in Ukraine and slammed Moscow’s narrative of the conflict: claiming it was launched “for the self-promotion of a gang of bastards” and that Russian troops were retreating into eastern and southern Ukraine.
“The impact of these words and actions will be felt for some time to come, a stark reminder of the corrosive effect of Putin’s war on his own society and his own regime,” Burns said.
He called the war a “strategic failure” for Moscow that exposed military weaknesses, hurt the economy and spurred a bigger and stronger NATO.
“Disaffection with the war will continue to plague Russian leaders… This disaffection creates a unique opportunity for us at the CIA,” he said.
“We’re not letting it get lost,” he added, noting that the CIA recently posted on Telegram letting Russians know how to reach the CIA through the dark web.
“We had 2.5 million views in the first week, and we’re very open for business.”
Burns did not mention a recent trip to Ukraine where he met with intelligence counterparts and President Volodymyr Zelensky. The visit took place before the Prigozhin uprising.
In his speech, the spy chief also focused on China, which he called “the only country intent on both reshaping the international order and, increasingly, economic power, diplomatic, military and technological to do so”.
Burns warned of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “growing repression at home and his aggressiveness abroad” and said the CIA had established a mission center focused exclusively on Asian power and had more than doubled the percentage of overall budget dedicated to Chinese activities.