CIA Chief: We Have to Take Putin’s Nuclear Weapons Threat ‘Seriously’

CIA Director William Burns says it is difficult to determine if Russian President Vladimir Putin is bluffing about his threat to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

But Burns added the U.S. has to take the warnings seriously.

Burns made his comments during an interview on “CBS Evening News with Nora O’Donnell.”

He was asked if he saw any signs Russia was intending to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

“Well, we have to take very seriously his kind of threats given everything that’s at stake,” Burns said. “And, you know, the rhetoric that he and other senior Russian leaders have used is reckless and deeply irresponsible.

“We don’t see any practical evidence today in the U.S. intelligence community that he’s moving closer to actual use, that there’s an imminent threat of using tactical nuclear weapons.

“But as I said, we have to take it very seriously.”

Asked if Putin is bluffing, he replied: “It’s very hard to say at this point. And, as I said, what we have to do is take it very seriously, watch for signs of actual preparations, and also — and this is the role of policymakers and I’m no longer a policymaker — but to communicate very directly the severe consequences that would flow from any use of nuclear weapons,” Burns said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has condemned Putin’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions, warning that there is no one to deter him from his threats of using nuclear weapons.

Speaking on CNN on Sunday, Austin said, “To be clear, the guy who makes that decision — I mean it’s one man, there are no checks on Mr. Putin. Just as he made the irresponsible decision to invade Ukraine, he could make another decision. But I don’t see anything right now that would lead me to believe that he has made such a decision.”

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