The United States can not take lightly the threat, Russia can use nuclear weapons – CIA chief

CIA Director William Burns Speaks at a House Intelligence Committee Hearing on Worldwide Threats in Washington, DC, USA, April 15, 2021. Tasos Katopodis / Pool via REUTERS / File Photo

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WASHINGTON, April 14 (Reuters) – The threat that Russia potentially uses tactical or low-key nuclear weapons in Ukraine can not be taken lightly, but the CIA has not seen much practical evidence to reinforce this concern, said CIA Director William Burns Thursday. .

Burns’ most extensive public comments since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 underscored concerns that the largest attack on a European state since 1945 could escalate into the use of nuclear weapons.

Earlier Thursday, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, warned NATO that Moscow would place nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave in the heart of Europe, if Sweden and Finland joined. to the Atlantic Alliance. Read more

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Burns spoke at Georgia Tech about the “potential desperation” and setbacks Putin suffered, whose forces have suffered heavy losses and have been forced to withdraw from some parts of northern Ukraine after failing to capture Kiev.

For these reasons, “none of us can take lightly the threat from a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-performing nuclear weapons,” Burns said.

That said, despite “Kremlin views” from the Kremlin on putting the world’s largest nuclear arsenal on high alert, “we have not seen much practical evidence of the kind of deployments or military dispositions that would reinforce this concern.”

Tactical and low-performance nuclear weapons refer to those designed for use on the battlefield, some experts of which estimate that Russia has about 2,000 that can be supplied by air, naval and land forces.

Burns’ comments came in response to a question from former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, a leading proponent of gun control, at the end of the CIA chief’s first public speech since the takeover of the leading U.S. spy agency in March 2021.

In a wide-ranging speech, the former US career diplomat said that US spy agencies began collecting “disturbing and detailed” intelligence last fall about a plan by Putin for a “major new invasion” of Ukraine.

Burns said President Joe Biden sent him to Moscow in November “to convey directly to Putin and several of his closest advisers the depth of our concern over his war planning and the consequences for Russia” if they continue.

“I was worried about what I heard,” he continued, saying that although Putin may not have made a final decision, he appeared convinced that his forces would “achieve a quick decisive victory at minimal cost. “

Putin believed that Washington’s European allies were distracted by their own domestic policies, and he had a “sanction-proof” war chest of foreign exchange reserves, Burns said.

“Putin was proven wrong on each of these points,” he said.

The Russian leader “stowed” in complaint, ambition and uncertainty and so apparently that “the window closed to shape Ukraine’s orientation” away from the West, said Burns, who called Putin a “repayment postman.”

US intelligence has been instrumental in Ukraine’s fight against Russian forces, Burns said, whose diplomatic posts included one as US ambassador to Moscow.

The “crimes” he said the forces committed in the Ukrainian city of Bucha are “horrific”.

Russia, which has repeatedly refused to attack civilians, has called the allegations that its forces executed civilians in Bucha while occupying the city, a “monstrous forgery” with the aim of dismantling the Russian army.

The Kremlin says it launched a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “liberate” Ukraine from nationalist extremists.

In other remarks, Burns called China a formidable competitor seeking to overtake the United States in all areas, from economic and military power to space and cyberspace.

China’s ambitions under its leader Xi Jinping are “rather threatening” and include the possibility that Beijing would seek control of Taiwan by military means, he said.

“The further out we get in this decade, the greater the risk,” he said.

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Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Michael Martina; Editing Howard Goller

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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