Despite alarm in Kyiv, William Burns said there was no ‘practical evidence’ that Russia would deploy tactical nuclear weapons
CIA Director William Burns told a Financial Times conference on Saturday that US intelligence agencies had seen none. “practical proof” that Russian President Vladimir Putin will use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has previously claimed that Putin can use such weapons.
“We do not see, as the intelligence community, practical evidence at this stage of Russian planning for the deployment or even the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons,” Burns said at the conference in Washington DC, repeating a similar assessment he made in early April.
However, Burns added that in his view Putin “don’t think you can afford to lose” and the United States should therefore “stay very focused” on the potential nuclear threat, whatever.
The Kremlin has insisted that Russia will not deploy nuclear weapons against its neighbor, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexei Zaitsev saying on Friday that “Russia firmly adheres to the principle that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that it must not be started.”
Nevertheless, Zelensky said last month that he was “convinced” Russia could use chemical or nuclear weapons to claim victory in Ukraine, calling on the world to “be ready” for the possibility. Western media also speculated about the possibility of such a nuclear strike, citing Russia’s placing of its nuclear deterrent forces on high alert at the start of the conflict in Ukraine, and Putin’s warning that outside powers interfering with Russia’s war aims would suffer consequences. “never seen in [their] all the story.”
Speaking to Newsweek on Thursday, Russia’s Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said it was Moscow “who for the past few years has repeatedly suggested to his American colleagues that there can be no winners in a nuclear war, so it should never happen.”
Unlike the type of warheads mounted on intercontinental ballistic missiles, tactical nuclear weapons are smaller, low-yield devices that can be dropped from aircraft, mounted on short-range missiles, or fired from artillery pieces. . Although there is no internationally accepted definition, their yield generally ranges from less than one kiloton to 100 kilotons. For reference, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II had a yield of 15 kilotons.
Russia, which has around 700 more nuclear warheads than the United States, says it could use nuclear weapons in the event of a nuclear first strike on its territory or infrastructure, or if the existence of the Russian state is threatened by nuclear or conventional weapons. The United States, according to the most recent review of the Pentagon’s nuclear posture, claims that its nuclear weapons are intended to deter nuclear attacks against the United States and its allies, but their use may also be considered in “extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners”.