Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. 
Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP

 Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns said on Wednesday that Russia's struggles in Ukraine would likely affect "how and when" China decides to invade Taiwan.

Speaking to NBC at the Aspen Security Forum, Burns said the Chinese may have learned vital lessons from the war.

He speculated that the Chinese have likely been left "unsettled" by the poor performance of Russian troops and Russian President Vladimir Putin's "strategic failure" in Ukraine.

Despite these concerns, Burns warned that Chinese President Xi Jinping's determination to "assert China's control" over Taiwan should not be underestimated. 

"I think the Chinese leadership is trying to study the lessons of Russia's invasion of Ukraine," he said. "I think our sense is that it probably affects less the question of whether the Chinese leadership might choose some years down the road to use force to control Taiwan, but how and when they would do it."

Burns added that China had likely observed that "overwhelming force" would be necessary to ensure "quick, decisive victories" in any invasion attempt. He compared this to Russia's drawn-out conflict in Ukraine, which he said was "not a sustainable political endgame."

With such factors in mind, Burns said the Chinese leadership might be looking to "amass overwhelming force," and "shore up" their economy against possible international sanctions.

As for Xi's immediate priorities, Burns said he is likely focused on cementing his power during the upcoming Communist Party Congress and keeping the Chinese economy afloat. However, he added that the chances of a Taiwan invasion would be "higher" in the latter part of the 2020s.

The Chinese government has claimed Taiwan as a "renegade province" that is part of its territory, while the Taiwanese view the island as an independently ruled, self-governing state with its own military.

Political figures — including former President Donald Trump — have speculated that China would likely attempt a military assault on Taiwan, particularly after Putin invaded Ukraine in February. The Taiwanese are currently attempting to shore up their defenses in preparation for a potential Chinese invasion by training for urban warfare.