CIA Director Bill Burns briefed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv last week about U.S. projections for battlefield planning in Russia in the spring, according to a U.S. official and two Ukrainian sources familiar with the meeting.
The secret meeting comes as US officials closely monitor a possible Russian attack in the coming months — amid a heated debate between the United States and its European allies over sending advanced, long-range weapons to Ukraine. Western defense chiefs are due to meet on Friday to discuss more arms shipments to Ukraine.
“Director Burns traveled to Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian intelligence counterparts and President Zelensky, and reinforced our continued support for Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression,” a US official said in a press release.
The Washington Post first reported the meeting.
The veteran diplomat Burns has become a trusted interlocutor in Kyiv, and last week’s trip wasn’t the first. He made two known back-to-back trips to Kyiv in October and November last year, one of which involved a series of Russian missile strikes across the country.
The winter months saw heavy fighting on the front lines, particularly around the town of Bakhmut, but no major strategic gains were made on either side. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, called it “not a stalemate, but really an excruciating struggle at this point.”
But both sides are believed to be preparing for possible attacks in the spring, and Kyiv has continued to press the United States and its Western allies for more support in their fight to roll back Russia. A Ukrainian source confirmed to CNN that Kyiv has become concerned about the pace of arms deliveries to Ukraine — a growing fear because Republicans, some of whom are skeptical of Ukrainian aid, have a majority in the US House of Representatives.
On Thursday, the Pentagon announced a $2.5 billion security package for Ukraine — the second largest ever announced by the United States. The Assistant first appeared in Stryker Fighting Vehicles and included more Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
But the Biden administration is still confronting Germany about sending tanks to Ukraine, with German officials indicating in recent days that they would not send their own Leopard tanks to Ukraine, nor would they allow any other country with German-made tanks in its stockpile to do so. Therefore, unless the United States also accepts M1 Abrams tanks sent to Kyiv.
The Pentagon has said for months that it has no plans to do so, given the logistical costs of maintaining it.