Ukraine intensifies electronic warfare against Russia 3:25
Washington (CNN) -- Ukrainian forces are facing a "harsh" winter and a difficult year ahead as Western intelligence assessments do not expect significant movement on the front lines in the coming months, two Western officials and a senior US military official told CNN.
In the short term, Western intelligence agencies expect Russia to expand its bombing of civilian infrastructure, including electrical facilities, in an attempt to inflict more suffering on civilians during the cold winter months.
Progress on the battlefield has been slow in recent weeks, with the advance of Ukrainian forces limited to a mile in some areas and a handful of miles in others. Western intelligence assessments indicate that the front lines are unlikely to change much in the coming months.
One factor that continues to hamper the Ukrainian counteroffensive is the lack of air power to support operations on the ground. NATO's promised F-16 fighter jets are not expected to arrive soon enough, or in sufficient numbers, to alter battlefield dynamics for some time, and some estimates predict that it will take well into next year for that firepower to take effect.
Looking ahead to 2024, NATO allies fear Russian President Vladimir Putin will attempt a broader offensive following his expected victory in his country's presidential election in March.
- ANALYSIS | F-16s for Ukraine: Why Kyiv Would Still Face Big Hurdles When Using U.S.-Made Fighter Jets
However, in Ukraine's favor is the fact that any Russian offensive is expected to meet stiff Ukrainian resistance. "On the other hand," a senior Western official told CNN, "Ukraine will have the advantage of the defender, and on that they are very tough."
With its long-awaited counteroffensive on the ground in the south and east largely hampered by Russian defenses, Western officials note that the Ukrainian military has made significant progress in other areas. Ukrainian attacks on Russia's Black Sea Fleet using long-range missiles, including the UK-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missile, and maritime drones have pushed the Black Sea Fleet back tens of kilometers, opening up sea lanes that allow the transport of grain and other products crucial to the Ukrainian economy.
However, Western intelligence assessments warn that movement on the battlefield could stall well into 2024, bringing the war closer to the "frozen conflict" that many Russian observers fear will play into Putin's hands.
Russia's president is also believed to factor the 2024 U.S. presidential election into his war planning. CNN reported in August that the U.S. does not yet have explicit information about Putin's mindset, or whether he is purposely prolonging the war in hopes of a presidential victory for Donald Trump or the Republican Party. But next year's election remains a key factor that senior Western national security, intelligence and diplomacy officials believe will influence Putin's decisions in Ukraine, making it even less likely that the war will be resolved before the end of next year.
- OPINION | Will the war in Ukraine end? U.S. support and Zelensky's plea for more funding
A U.S. official who spoke to CNN at the time said they have "no doubt" that Putin is "trying to hold on" until the 2024 election. Another source familiar with the information said "it's kind of an elephant in the room" for the United States, Ukraine and Europe.
The harsh assessment comes at a time when the White House is issuing warnings about the U.S.'s ability to support Ukrainians without Congress approving more aid.
Amid ongoing negotiations in Congress over possible avenues to provide funding to Ukraine and Israel, along with changes to border policy, the White House warned Thursday that the "runway is getting shorter" and that they will struggle to support Ukraine if more funding is not approved before the end of the year.
"Again, as I've said before, many times, the runway is getting shorter. And we think we have until the end of the year before it's really hard to continue supporting Ukraine. And the end of the year is approaching," said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
He also said, "We haven't pulled those numbers out of thin air. We need that funding."
CNN's Kylie Atwood, Natasha Bertrand, Jennifer Hansler, Kevin Liptak and Sam Fossum contributed to this report.
Russia's war in Ukraine