CIA director says it’s ‘hard to say’ if Putin is ‘bluffing’ on nuclear weapons

CIA Director William Burns said on Monday that it’s “hard to say” if Russian President Vladimir Putin is “bluffing” when it comes to threatening the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

During an interview on “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell,” the host asked Burns if there are any signs that Russia will deploy nuclear weapons.

“Well, we have to take very seriously [any] kind of threats given everything that’s at stake. And, you know, the rhetoric that he and other senior Russian leaders have used is reckless and deeply irresponsible,” Burns said. “We don’t see any practical evidence today in the US intelligence community that he’s moving closer to actual use, that there’s an imminent threat of using tactical nuclear weapons.”

When O’Donnell asked if Putin is “bluffing” with his threats, Burns replied that US officials have to take his actions seriously either way.

“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,” Burns said. “And I’m no longer a policymaker. But to communicate very directly the severe consequences that would flow from any use of nuclear weapons.”

Putin on Friday signed treaties of annexation for four regions of eastern and southern Ukraine, escalating a conflict with Kyiv and its Western allies, which called the move illegal. The move came after Putin warned that Moscow would deploy its massive nuclear arsenal to protect Russia’s territory or its people.

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