The potential for Russian President Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine should be taken “very seriously,” according to CIA Director William Burns. However, he said there is as yet “no practical evidence” they will be used.
Speaking to CBS News on Oct 4, Burns asserted: “Putin, who feels his back is against the wall, can be quite dangerous and reckless,” adding that the western world has “got to be concerned, not just about what’s happening on the battlefield in Ukraine, [but] what’s happening at home and what’s happening internationally.”
The director’s comments follow growing concern over threats made by Putin during his conscription address last month, in which he said that Russia had “lots of weapons” and would “protect Russian territories” using “all available means.” Putin added that the U.S. had “created a precedent” through its use of nuclear weapons against Japan in World War II.
The sham referenda and subsequent announcement by Moscow that four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine would be annexed, was seen by western pundits as a move by the dictator to ‘justify’ a potential nuclear strike should Ukraine attempt to recapture those regions.
However, Burns added during his CBS News interview that “we don’t see any practical evidence today in the U.S. intelligence community that he’s moving closer to actual use or that there’s an imminent threat of using tactical nuclear weapons.”
“What we have to do is take it very seriously,” he cautioned, “and watch for signs of actual preparations.”
Commenting on Putin’s growing desperation following the ongoing rapid and largely successful Ukrainian counteroffensive, Andrey Baklitskiy, a senior researcher at the UN’s Institute for Disarmament Research, remarked:
“Nuclear weapons are not a magic wand. They are not something that you just employ to solve all your problems.”
In a statement last month, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that President Joe Biden’s administration had privately informed the Kremlin that the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would have “catastrophic consequences” for Russia.
“We have communicated directly and privately at very high levels to the Kremlin that any use of nuclear weapons will be met with catastrophic consequences for Russia, that the U.S. and our allies will respond decisively, and we have been clear and specific about what that will entail,” Sullivan said.
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