Russian forces in Ukraine are burning through ammunition faster than the country’s defense industry can replace it, U.S. National Intelligence Director Avril Haines told NBC News.
Russia is using up ammunition “quite quickly,” prompting Moscow to look to other countries for help, including North Korea, Haines told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell at a panel at the Reagan Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.
Asked how fast Russia was using up ammunition, Haines said: “I don’t think I can give you precise numbers in this forum. But quite quickly. I mean, it’s really pretty extraordinary.”
She added: “And our own sense is that they are not capable of indigenously producing what they are expending at this stage.
So that is going to be a challenge.”
The Pentagon said last month that Russia is firing off a staggering 20,000 artillery rounds a day, even as it has suffered a series of setbacks on the battlefield. Echoing previous statements from Biden administration officials, Haines said that Russia was using up precision munitions even faster than its conventional ammunition.
The Biden administration previously said Russia has turned to North Korea to secure more supplies of artillery ammunition. Haines said that the extent of North Korea’s assistance appeared limited but that it was something the intelligence community would continue to monitor closely.
“We’ve indicated we’ve seen some movement, but it’s not been a lot at this stage,” she said of North Korea’s role.
The looming shortage of ammunition was just one of a number of challenges facing Russia’s military, Haines said, citing problems with morale and logistics as well.
The intelligence chief said that the tempo of the war in Ukraine appeared to be slowing down with the onset of winter and that both militaries would be trying to reset and regroup for more fighting in the spring. But she said the intelligence community had a “fair amount of skepticism” that Russian forces would be sufficiently prepared for renewed clashes in March.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was “surprised” at his military’s disappointing performance after its invasion of Ukraine in February, according to Haines.
“I do think he is becoming more informed of the challenges that the military faces in Russia. But it’s still not clear to us that he has a full picture at this stage of just how challenged they are,” Haines said.
Putin has not changed his political objective to effectively control Ukraine, but it is unclear whether he would accept scaled back military ambitions, Haines said.