CIA warns of nuclear risk posed by a Putin facing setbacks
Sylvie Claire / April 15, 2022
Military setbacks in Ukraine could prompt Russian President Vladimir Putin to use a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon in that country, CIA chief William Burns estimated Thursday.
Given the potential for President Putin and the Russian leadership to descend into despair, given the setbacks they have suffered so far from a military perspective, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons, Burns said in a speech in Atlanta.
The Kremlin has talked about putting its nuclear forces on alert but we haven't really seen any concrete signs like deployments or military actions that would add to our concerns, added the head of the main U.S. intelligence agency, who was speaking to students at Georgia Tech University. Obviously, we're very concerned. I know that President (Joe) Biden is deeply concerned about the risk of a Third World War and is doing everything he can to avoid reaching the point where a nuclear conflict becomes possible, he added.
Russia has many tactical nuclear weapons, of lesser power than the Hiroshima bomb, in accordance with its escalation-de-escalation doctrine, which would consist of using a low-yield nuclear weapon first to regain the advantage in the event of a conventional conflict with the West. But this hypothesis implies that Nato will intervene militarily on the ground in Ukraine during this conflict, and this is not something, as the president has made clear, that is planned, he stressed.
Recalling his time as U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Mr. Burns had harsh words for a vengeful, stubborn Vladimir Putin, who has sunk over the years into an explosive mix of grievance, ambition and insecurity. Every day, Putin demonstrates that a declining power can be as destabilizing as an ascending one, he added.