Some U.S. officials have heightened concern that Russia could use nuclear weapons in Ukraine following an assessment from the National Intelligence Council.
The assessment suggests Russia’s military leaders have been discussing what might prompt such a strike, according to several people who’ve read it.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. has seen no “indication” of Moscow preparing a nuclear attack.
“We’re concerned about any discussion by a modern nuclear power of the potential use of nuclear weapons,” Kirby said. “We’ve seen no indication that the Russian military is making preparations for this type of use.” Some officials believe the analysis takes conversations out of context. Others are more concerned.
“It might not just be a demonstration, strike in the ocean or something like this, but they might actually be used to achieve a battlefield impact,” said CNN Military Analyst Gen. Wesley Clark, retired NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. In a statement, Russia said it’d only use nuclear weapons in response to an attack threatening the existence of its country. Russia illegally annexed parts of Ukraine this year.
Clark said it could try to argue defending that area would fit its doctrine.
“You’d wait for the Ukrainians to concentrate their forces, and then you’d fire a pulse of these weapons out across several miles,” Clark said.
The intelligence does not suggest Russian President Vladimir Putin has been part of the discussions. It’s believed he would have the final say when it comes to launching a strike.