Rolf Mowatt-Larssen said it would be “irresponsible” for the West to view Putin’s threats as “bragging”. The former CIA official said Western leaders appeared to take threats very seriously. He added that as Ukraine grows stronger, Putin may see nuclear weapons as his “only good option”. Something is loading.
Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former CIA station chief in Moscow, warned that it would be “terribly irresponsible” for Western leaders not to take Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear war threats seriously.
Michael Morell, host of CBS’s “Intelligence Matters” podcast and former acting director of the CIA, asked Mowatt-Larssen during an episode of the podcast uploaded Wednesday if he thought Putin’s threats to use tactical nukes were either a bluff or a real threat.
“It would be terribly irresponsible, Michael, if anyone, any Western leader, thought these threats were bluster, saber-rattling, or vacuous,” Mowatt-Larssen replied.
“I’m quite certain that all Western leaders, from at least people I know and things I hear, take threats very seriously,” he added.
However, despite the threat, Mowatt-Larssen said he believed there was no “military reason” for Putin to use nuclear weapons.
“In other words, he can’t use tactical nukes on the battlefield to win a war he can’t win with an army,” he said. “Nuclear weapons don’t take territories. They don’t hold territories. It’s a way of trying to retaliate against an enemy that you can’t stop with an asymmetric weapon of mass destruction. That’s the danger. “
Mowatt-Larssen said that as the Russian military weakens and the Ukrainians grow stronger and refuse to accept a ceasefire, the risks will increase that Putin will see the use of nuclear weapons as his ” only good option”.
“Now it suddenly seems like he might feel – and I think it’s a horribly misjudgment if it comes to that – that he’ll somehow be at an advantage if he uses these weapons,” Mowatt said. -Larssen about Putin.
Commenting on the reasons why Ukraine said it would not negotiate with Russia, Mowatt-Larssen said it would be an act of surrender for Ukraine and its leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“And he’s in no mood for it. They’ve fought too hard. They’ve lost too much,” he said of Zelenskyy. “So that means he’s likely to continue to challenge Putin by continuing his attacks and intensifying the battle on the pitch. So that puts Vladimir Putin in a very bad position because if that’s successful, his options also diminish.”
Putin annexed four regions of Ukraine – Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk – which collectively make up around 15% of Ukraine’s total territory. The Russian president’s statement came in the wake of sham referendums held by pro-Russian separatists in the four occupied regions.
Experts have expressed concern about Putin’s use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine and interpreted Putin’s annexation of these regions as a sign that Russia may be determined to escalate the conflict.
CIA Director William Burns recently said it was hard to tell if Putin was bluffing about his willingness to use nuclear weapons.
“We don’t see any practical evidence today in the US intelligence community that it’s coming close to actual use, that there’s an imminent threat of tactical nuclear weapon use,” Burns told CBS in an interview premiered on September 27 and aired in full on Sunday.