Former CIA official says it would be ‘terribly irresponsible’ for Western leaders to treat Putin’s threats of nuclear war as ’empty’ or mere ‘saber-rattling’

There is no military reason for Russian President Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, said former CIA Moscow station chief Rolf Mowatt-Larssen.Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

  • Rolf Mowatt-Larssen said it’d be “irresponsible” of the West to view Putin’s threats as “bluster.”
  • The former CIA official said Western leaders appeared to be taking the threats very seriously.
  • He added that, as Ukraine gets stronger, Putin might see nuclear weapons as his “only good option.”

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former CIA Moscow station chief, has warned that it would be “terribly irresponsible” of Western leaders not to take Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats of nuclear warfare seriously.

Michael Morell, host of the CBS podcast “Intelligence Matters” and a former acting director of the CIA, asked Mowatt-Larssen during an episode of the podcast uploaded on Wednesday if he thought Putin’s threats to use tactical nuclear weapons were a bluff or a genuine threat.

“It would be terribly irresponsible, Michael, if anyone, any Western leader thought of these threats as being bluster or saber-rattling or empty,” Mowatt-Larssen replied.

“I’m quite certain that all the Western leadership, based on at least the people I know and things I hear, are taking the 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 nuclear weapons 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 is a way to try to strike back at an enemy you can’t stop with an asymmetric weapon of mass destruction. That’s the danger.”

Mowatt-Larssen said that, as the Russian army weakens and the Ukrainians get stronger and refuse to agree to a ceasefire, the risks will rise that Putin may see using nuclear weapons as his “only good option.”

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