US claims small risk of using nuclear weapons by Russia

    WORLD  29 September 2022 - 17:40

    US officials believe that the likelihood Russian President Vladimir Putin will use a tactical nuclear weapon in his struggling war in Ukraine is perhaps the highest it has been since Russia invaded in February 2022 — but is still not probable.

    The intelligence community is closely watching for any signs that Putin’s calculus has changed after the Russian president was widely perceived last week to be escalating his past threats to use nuclear weapons, European Pravda reports referring to CNN.

    The threat is certainly “elevated” compared to earlier in the year, according to multiple sources. The US in recent months has been privately warning Russia not to take such a catastrophic step.

    But so far, there are no signs that Russia is imminently planning their use and the “general assessment hasn’t changed,” one source familiar with the intelligence said.

    Several US defense officials, who also said they see no indication at this time of Russia moving nuclear weapons around, said they believe it’s likely the US could detect movement even of smaller tactical warheads.

    Officials have long believed that Putin would only turn to a nuclear weapon if there was a threat to his own position, or if he perceived an existential threat to Russia itself – which he may consider a loss in Ukraine to be.

    Some Russian military analysts believe that Putin’s mobilisation order may in fact decrease the short-term risk he will turn to a battlefield nuke, because it will prolong his ability to sustain the conventional war.

    The general sense inside the US government that the threat is higher than before is based primarily on Putin’s rhetoric and analysis of his mindset amid Russian losses in Ukraine, rather than any hard intelligence that Russia is more seriously weighing the nuclear option, according to two sources familiar with the intelligence.

    For example, some officials are concerned that Putin could take extreme steps to protect Russian-occupied territory in eastern Ukraine, amid sham referendums held there that are expected to result in Russia forcibly annexing the territory. Putin also said last week that Russia’s threats to deploy a nuclear weapon are “not a bluff.”

    Still, the intelligence community’s view into Putin’s decision-making calculus is imperfect and multiple sources acknowledged that even a marginally higher probability of the use of such weapons is concerning. Russia’s dismal performance and Ukraine’s relative success in its recent offensive push in the northeast have left Moscow with a vanishing number of choices on the battlefield.

    “It’s hard to track definitively if/when he would give such an order,” one of the sources said. “Or how his own mental calculus is playing out.” 

    Caliber.Az

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