CIA Chief Responds to Putin’s Alleged Nuclear Threat

CIA Chief Responds to Putin’s Alleged Nuclear Threat
William Burns, then nominee for CIA director, testifies during his confirmation hearing, in Washington, on Feb. 24, 2021. (Tom Williams/Pool via AP)
Jack Phillips

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) weighed in on recent warnings made by Russian officials regarding the use of nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict.

“We have to take very seriously [any] kind of threats, given everything that’s at stake,” CIA Director William Burns told CBS News this week.

But Burns noted that “we don’t see any practical evidence today in the U.S. intelligence community that [Moscow] is moving closer to actual use” of nuclear weapons. There is also no “imminent threat of using tactical nuclear weapons” in the months-long Ukraine war, he added.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested in a speech that all weapons in Russia’s arsenal could be used if Russia’s territory is threatened.

While Putin did not specifically call for using nukes, other Russian authorities have been more explicit, including former President Dmitry Medvedev and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

What Was Said

“If the territorial integrity of our nation is threatened, we will certainly use all the means that we have to defend Russia and our people. It’s not a bluff,” Putin said in an address several weeks ago, coming before residents of four disputed Ukrainian regions voted in a referendum to join the Russian Federation.

The Russian president made those remarks in the context of authorizing the partial mobilization of reserve forces amid the Ukraine war. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was cited by the RIA news agency on Tuesday as saying that Russia had so far called up more than 200,000 reservists out of a planned 300,000 men.

Describing the nuclear-themed rhetoric as “reckless and deeply irresponsible,” Burns told CBS News that it is “very hard to say at this point” whether nukes would be deployed if Russia’s territory is threatened.

However, late last month, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov, denied claims that Russia wants to use nuclear weapons.

“We are not threatening anyone with nuclear weapons,” he said, as reported by state media.

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Earlier on Tuesday, the upper house of Russia’s parliament voted to approve the four regions’ incorporation into Russia, which taken together represent around 18 percent of Ukraine. The Kremlin said that Putin’s signature, the final stage in the process, was likely later in the day.
Cars destroyed by a missile strike that hit a convoy of civilian vehicles in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Sept. 30, 2022. (Stringer/Reuters)
Cars destroyed by a missile strike that hit a convoy of civilian vehicles in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Sept. 30, 2022. (Stringer/Reuters)

In Brussels, the European Union summoned Russia’s envoy to the EU to reject Moscow’s “illegal annexation” and urge it to unconditionally withdraw all of its troops from the entire territory of Ukraine.

In their biggest breakthrough in the south since the 7-month-old war began, Ukrainian forces retook several villages in an advance along the strategic Dnipro River on Monday, Ukrainian officials and a Russian-installed leader in the area said.

In the east, Ukrainian forces have been expanding an offensive after capturing the main Russian bastion in the north of Donetsk, the town of Lyman, hours after Putin proclaimed the annexation of the province last week.

Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed leader in occupied parts of Ukraine’s Kherson province, told Russian state television that Ukrainian troops had retaken the southern town of Dudchany along the west bank of the Dnipro River, which bisects the country.

Reuters contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
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