Putin's Ambitions 'Seriously Set Back' by Failures in Ukraine: Ex-CIA Chief

Former CIA director and retired U.S. Army general David Petraeus assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin's ambitions have been "seriously set back" by his military's failures in Ukraine.

Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 after weeks of warnings from President Joe Biden and Western European leaders that an attack was imminent. The unprovoked aggression was swiftly condemned by the international community, with the vast majority of countries in the United Nations General Assembly voting in favor of a resolution formally condemning Russia's actions on March 2.

While Putin reportedly believed that his military would quickly take control of Ukraine's major cities and topple the government in Kyiv, after more than a month of war, Russia has failed to conquer any major metropolitan area in the Eastern European country. Ukraine's military and ordinary citizens have fought back the Russian advance, surprising even many Western analysts with their success.

"I tend to think that this has complicated any ambitions that he [Putin] might have had very, very considerably. This is going to set back his military for years," Petraeus told ABC News' This Week on Sunday morning. He said the failures of Russia are "showing the whole world" that its military wasn't the "wonderfully modernized force" people believed it to be.

Anti-Putin protest in Israel
Former CIA director David Petraeus said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin's ambitions have been "seriously set back" by his invasion of Ukraine. Above, a demonstrator holds up a sign depicting Putin as Nazi leader Adolf Hitler during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 20. JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

"This has been a huge challenge for the Russians. You know, the fact that they've lost seven generals," the former CIA director continued. "I tend to think that his ambitions are going to be seriously set back by what takes place in Ukraine, noting that this is by no means nearing a conclusion."

Despite Russia's apparent failure to take control of major cities or topple Kyiv's government, Moscow has insisted that it is seeing success. Russia's Defense Ministry last week said that the "first stage of the operation" has been "mainly accomplished." It argued that Ukraine's military capabilities have been "significantly reduced."

Newsweek reached out to Russia's embassy for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

On March 19, the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S.-based think tank, assessed that Russia "failed" in its initial military campaign in Ukraine.

"Ukrainian forces have defeated the initial Russian campaign of this war. That campaign aimed to conduct airborne and mechanized operations to seize Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and other major Ukrainian cities to force a change of government in Ukraine," the report explained. "That campaign has culminated. Russian forces continue to make limited advances in some parts of the theater but are very unlikely to be able to seize their objectives in this way."

While the Kremlin has been tight-lipped about its troop losses, NATO has reportedly assessed that some 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the war over the past month, The Washington Post reported last week. To put that number in perspective, the U.S. lost less than 2,500 troops in the two decade-long war in Afghanistan. The now-defunct Soviet Union, of which Russia is the remnant, lost about 15,000 soldiers in its decade-long war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

However, Russia said on March 25 that just 1,351 of its troops have died in the war thus far.