Putin could use nukes if he felt the war was lost – US intelligence chief | Vladimir Poutine

Vladimir Putin could view the prospect of defeat in Ukraine as an existential threat to his regime, potentially triggering its recourse to nuclear weapons, the senior US intelligence official has warned.

Tuesday’s warning came in an assessment of intelligence chiefs briefing the Senate on global threats. The prediction for Ukraine was a long and grueling war of attrition, which could lead to increasingly volatile acts of escalation by Putin, including full mobilization, the imposition of martial law and – if the Russian leader felt that the war was going against him, endangering his position in Moscow – even the use of a nuclear warhead.

The grim forecast came on a day of continued fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine and Russian missile attacks on the port of Odessa, with the UN admitting the civilian death toll from the war is likely to be much higher than the current official estimate. of 3,381.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Putin would continue to wield Russia’s nuclear arsenal in an attempt to dissuade the United States and its allies from continuing to support Ukraine. Shifting focus east and south is most likely a temporary tactic rather than a permanent reduction in war aims, she said.

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

“We think that [Putin’s perception of an existential threat] could be the case in the event that he perceives that he is losing the war in Ukraine and that NATO is in fact intervening or about to intervene in this context, which would obviously help to look like he’s about to lose the war in Ukraine,” Haines said during the committee hearing.

She added that the world would probably be warned that nuclear use was imminent.

“There are a lot of things he would do in the context of escalation before he gets to nuclear weapons, and also he would be likely to engage in signals beyond what he has done. so far,” Haines said.

This signaling could include a new large-scale nuclear exercise involving the substantial dispersal of mobile intercontinental missiles, heavy bombers and strategic submarines.

The assessment that US intelligence chiefs presented to senators suggested that Ukraine faced the prospect of a war of attrition. They said Putin intended to conquer Luhansk and Donetsk regions and a buffer zone around them, to secure a land bridge to Crimea. He wanted to hold Kherson, north of the Crimea, to secure the peninsula’s water supply.

However, his ambitions do not stop there. Haines said there were “indications” that Putin wants to extend the land bridge to Transnistria, the Moscow-occupied region of Moldova, thus controlling all of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. Haines said, however, that Putin would face an arduous task and that extending the land bridge to Transnistria, including the capture of Odessa, would not be possible without full mobilization. She added that the capture of Donbass plus a buffer zone was unlikely in the coming weeks.

The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, said the United States believed between eight and 10 Russian generals had been killed so far in the conflict.

Like Haines, Berrier predicted a stalemate, with neither side able to pull off a breakthrough. But a decision by Putin to order total mobilization in Russia, preceded by a formal declaration of war, could alter the military balance.

“If they mobilize and declare war, it will bring thousands more soldiers into battle,” Berrier said. “And while they may not be as well trained and proficient, they will still bring mass and a lot more ammunition.”

Despite all the setbacks, Haines said Putin was likely convinced Russia ultimately had more stamina than Ukraine and its supporters.

“He is likely counting on US and EU resolve to falter as food shortages, inflation and energy prices worsen,” she said.

Given Putin’s belief that he might ultimately prevail and the fact that Ukraine shows no signs of backing down, Haines said US intelligence agencies “don’t see a viable path to negotiation, at least in short term”.

Meanwhile, as the war of attrition continued, the conflict risked taking “a more unpredictable and potentially escalating trajectory”.

“The current trend increases the likelihood that President Putin will turn to more drastic means, including the imposition of martial law, the redirection of industrial production or potentially escalating military actions to free up the resources needed to achieve his goals. goals as the conflict drags on, or if he perceives that Russia is losing in Ukraine,” Haines said.

The most likely flashpoint in the coming weeks, she added, would be an escalation of Russian attempts to bully the West into stopping arms supplies to Ukraine and possible retaliation. for Western economic sanctions or perceived threats to Putin’s regime at home.

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