Putin may lean on nuclear threats if Russia's invasion of Ukraine drags: UStext_fields
A new assessment by the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency believes that Vladimir Putin may threaten to unleash Russia's nuclear arsenal if Ukrainian defence forces continue to impede his invasion of their country.
In its new 67-page summary of worldwide threats, Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that protracted occupation of parts of Ukrainian territory threatens to weaken Russian military manpower and reduce their modernized weapons arsenal.
It also noted that consequent economic sanctions from the West will probably throw Russia into prolonged economic depression and diplomatic isolation
The combination of Ukraine's defiance and economic sanctions will threaten Russia's "ability to produce modern precision-guided munitions," Berrier said in testimony submitted to the House Armed Services Committee for a hearing on Thursday.
"As this war and its consequences slowly weaken Russian conventional strength," Berrier added, "Russia likely will increasingly rely on its nuclear deterrent to signal the West and project strength to its internal and external audiences."
The Pentagon agency's grim appraisal of the war's broader stakes comes on the eve of a call between President Joe Biden and China's President Xi Jinping. Even as US officials struggle to discern China's position on the war, Biden will seek Xi's help ratcheting up pressure on Moscow to end it.
Putin already has announced that he's put Russia's nuclear arsenal on a state of higher alert. The Russian Embassy in Washington didn't immediately return a request for comment on the Defense Intelligence Agency report.
Unlike a report on global threats issued by multiple intelligence agencies last week with findings that predated the Russian invasion, the new report reflects information as of Tuesday.
A senior Pentagon official told reporters Thursday that the invasion is largely stalled, with Russia relying so far on more than 1,000 long-range missile strikes into Ukraine.
"US efforts to undermine Russia's goals in Ukraine, combined with its perception that the United States is a nation in decline, could prompt Russia to engage in more aggressive actions not only in Ukraine itself but also more broadly in its perceived confrontation with the West," Berrier said.
Berrier said Putin's order in February putting Russia's nuclear forces on "special combat duty" refers to "heightened preparations designed to ensure a quick transition to higher alert status should the situation call for it."