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US fears Putin will dangle nuclear threat over Ukraine war

US fears Putin will dangle nuclear threat over Ukraine war


The Defense Department’s intelligence arm has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin will increasingly threaten to use nuclear bombs if his invasion of Ukraine drags on and exposes Moscow’s military weaknesses.

The Defense Intelligence Agency’s latest threat assessment report, released this week, indicates that the Kremlin is fast losing traditional military supplies as its forces become bogged down — and will struggle to replace them because of crushing sanctions levied by the West.

“Despite greater than anticipated resistance from Ukraine and relatively high losses in the initial phases of the conflict, Moscow appears determined to press forward by using more lethal capabilities until the Ukrainian government is willing to come to terms favorable to Moscow,” warned Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the DIA’s director, in the 67-page report.

“As this war and its consequences slowly weaken Russian conventional strength … Russia likely will increasingly rely on its nuclear deterrent to signal the West and project strength to its internal and external audiences,” he added.

“Moscow appears determined to press forward by using more lethal capabilities,” warned Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier.
Getty Images
An intercontinental ballistic missile lifts off from a silo somewhere in Russia.
An intercontinental ballistic missile lifts off from a silo somewhere in Russia.
AP
Ukrainian military members and the police stand next to a dead body of a person killed after shelling by the Russian military.
Ukrainian military members and the police stand next to a dead body of a person killed after shelling by the Russian military.
EPA

Putin ordered his nuclear forces on “special combat duty” just days after greenlighting the invasion of his western neighbor Feb. 24.


Get the latest updates in the Russia-Ukraine conflict with The Post’s live coverage.


According to Berrier, that move was “designed to ensure a quick transition to higher alert status should the situation call for it.”

A satellite image shows shelling damage in a residential area of Chernihiv, Ukraine.
A satellite image shows shelling damage in a residential area of Chernihiv, Ukraine.
EPA

“This order and other recent comments by Russian leaders highlighting Russia’s nuclear arsenal are likely intended to intimidate,” he wrote. “They also reflect Moscow’s doctrinal views on the use of tactical, non-strategic nuclear weapons to compel an adversary into pursuing an off-ramp or negotiations that may result in termination of the conflict on terms favorable to Russia, or deter the entry of other participants when Russian offensive progress of its conventional forces looks like it might be reversed or the conflict becomes protracted.”

A drawn-out conflict appears increasingly likely given Russia’s failure to overwhelm Ukraine’s forces in the 23-day-old invasion.

“Protracted occupation of parts of Ukrainian territory threatens to sap Russian military manpower and reduce their modernized weapons arsenal,” the report said.

The loss of materiel, coupled with a likely “prolonged economic depression” from sanctions, will hinder the Kremlin’s “ability to produce modern precision-guided munitions,” Berrier added.

A man removes a destroyed curtain inside a school damaged in Kyiv early Friday.
A man removes a destroyed curtain inside a school damaged in Kyiv early Friday.
AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks via videoconference on March 16.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks via videoconference on March 16.
AP
Ukranian servicemen are seen as they carry the remains of a missile after shelling in Kyiv on March 18.
Ukranian servicemen are seen as they carry the remains of a missile after shelling in Kyiv on March 18.
AFP via Getty Images

The section of the report dealing with Russian concluded with a final warning, that “U.S. efforts to undermine Russia’s goals in Ukraine, combined with its perception that the United States is a nation in decline, could prompt Russia to engage in more aggressive actions not only in Ukraine itself, but also more broadly in its perceived confrontation with the West.”





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