Putin can use nuclear weapons if he feels the war is lost – US intelligence chief

The top US intelligence official has warned that Vladimir Putin may view the prospect of defeat in Ukraine as an existential threat to his regime, which could lead to him resorting to the use of a nuclear weapon.

The warning came Tuesday in an assessment by intelligence chiefs to brief the Senate on global threats. prediction for Ukraine It was a long and tortuous war of attrition, which could lead to Putin’s increasingly volatile escalation actions, including full mobilization, the imposition of martial law, and – if the Russian leader felt a war would be waged against him, jeopardizing his position in Moscow. – Even using a nuclear warhead.

The bleak forecast came on a day of ongoing fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine, and Russian missile attacks on the port of Odessa, with the United Nations acknowledging that Civilian death toll of the war is probably much higher than the current official estimate of 3,381.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Putin will continue to brandish the Russian nuclear arsenal In an effort to deter the United States and its allies from providing more support to Ukraine. Shifting focus to the east and south, she said, is likely a temporary tactic rather than a permanent curtailment of war goals.

Haines argued that the Russian leader would not use a nuclear weapon until he saw an existential threat to Russia or his regime. But, she added, the prospect of defeat in Ukraine could be seen as such a threat.

“We think so [Putin’s perception of an existential threat] This could be the case if he realizes that he is losing the war in Ukraine, and that NATO is in fact either interfering or about to intervene in this context, which would clearly contribute to the perception that he is about to lose the war in Ukraine,” Haines told a hearing Committee hearing.

She added that the world might have some warning that nuclear use was imminent.

“There’s a lot of things he’s going to do in the context of escalation before he gets to nuclear weapons, and also that he’s probably going to engage in some signal other than what he’s done so far before doing that,” Haines said.

This signal could include an additional large-scale nuclear exercise that includes a significant deployment of mobile ICBMs, heavy bombers, and strategic submarines.

The assessment that US intelligence chiefs gave to senators suggests that Ukraine faces the prospect of a war of attrition. They said that Putin intended to occupy the Luhansk and Donetsk regions as well as a buffer zone around them, to secure a land bridge to Crimea. He wanted to take control of Kherson, north of the Crimea, to secure the water supply to the peninsula.

But his ambitions did not stop there. Haines said there are “indications” that Putin wants to expand the land bridge as far as Transnistria, the Moscow-occupied region of Moldova, and thus control the Ukrainian coast on the Black Sea. However, Haines said that Putin would face a daunting task, and that the extension of the land bridge to Transnistria, including the capture of Odessa, would not be possible without full mobilization. She added that the capture of Donbass in addition to a buffer zone is unlikely in the next few weeks.

The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Scott Perrier, said the United States believes that eight to ten Russian generals have been killed so far in the conflict.

Like Haines, Perrier predicted a crisis, with neither side able to achieve a breakthrough. But Putin’s decision to fully mobilize Russia, with a formal declaration of war, could alter the military balance.

“If they mobilize, and declare war, it will bring thousands more soldiers into combat,” Brier said. “And while they may not be well qualified and trained, they will still bring in lots and lots of ammo.”

Despite all the setbacks, Haines said, Putin may have been convinced that Russia ultimately had more endurance than Ukraine and its backers.

“It probably depends on the resolve of the United States and the European Union to weaken as food shortages, inflation and energy prices worsen,” she said.

Given Putin’s conviction that he can win in the end, and the fact that Ukraine has shown no signs of giving up, Haines said US intelligence agencies “do not see a viable negotiating path forward, at least in the short term.”

Meanwhile, as the war of attrition continued, the conflict was likely to take an “unpredictable and potentially escalating course”.

“The current trend increases the likelihood that President Putin will resort to tougher means, including imposing martial law, redirecting industrial production, or potentially escalatory military measures to free up resources needed to achieve his goals as the conflict continues, or if he perceives Russia to lose in Ukraine. .

She added that the most likely flashpoint in the coming weeks will escalate Russian attempts to intimidate the West to halt arms supplies to Ukraine and possible retaliation against Western economic sanctions or perceived threats to the Putin regime at home.