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Putin may be “dangerous and reckless”: CIA director analyzes the way forward for the Russian president

As the Central Intelligence Agency celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, the intelligence community is keeping an eye on the war in ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin. CBS News visited the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to speak with director William Burns and ask if Putin is worried about the progress being made by the Ukrainian army as hundreds of thousands flee Russia.

“You have to be concerned, not just with what’s happening on the battlefield in Ukraine, what’s happening at home and what’s happening internationally,” Burns told “CBS Evening News” anchor and editor Norah O’Donnell. . “He stood next to Xi Jinping last February, just before the war started, and they proclaimed a friendship without limits. Well, it turns out that friendship has some limits.”

Burns said China has been somewhat muted in its support for Russia in the conflict, noting that it has not provided the kind of military support Putin likely expected. Yet, Burns said, Putin remains “stubbornly confident in his own judgments.”

Burns said the Russian leader can be “pretty dangerous and reckless” when he feels backed into a corner or “feels his back is against the wall.” But Putin, in Burns’ estimation, is also basing his approach on “erroneous assumptions, that he believes he can take on the Ukrainians, the US and the West.”

As for how closely China is paying attention to the war, Burns said he thinks Xi is “watching Ukraine like a hawk.”

“I think to some extent he has been reassured by the poor performance of the Russian military,” he said. “The Chinese leadership is also looking at what happens when you stage an invasion and the people you are invading are also resisting with a lot of courage and tenacity.”

This revelation, Burns said, could possibly change Xi’s attitude toward Taiwan.

“President Xi insists today that while he is firmly committed to unification, in other words, to gaining control of Taiwan, his preference is to seek means other than the use of force to achieve this,” Burns explained. “But he also instructed his military, we know, to be prepared no later than 2027 to carry out a successful invasion of Taiwan. So the reality, at least as we see it, is that the further you go into this decade , the greater the risk of a potential conflict arising”.

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