November 2, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

On November 1, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu held a meeting at the National Defense Management Center in Moscow.
On November 1, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu holds a meeting at the National Defense Management Center in Moscow.

Russian military officials discussed how and under what conditions Russia would use tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield in Ukraine, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment described to CNN by multiple sources who have read it.

The assessment, which was developed by the National Intelligence Council, is not a high-confidence product and is not raw intelligence, but rather an analysis, multiple people who have read it told CNN. For this reason, some officials believe that the conversations reflected in the document may be taken out of context and do not necessarily indicate that Russia is planning to use nuclear weapons.

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The U.S. has yet to see any sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to take the drastic step of using it, officials said, and Putin is not believed to have been involved in the discussions described in the NIC product.

But others in the administration who have viewed the document have expressed concern because it provides a rare window into conversations among top Russian generals and reveals their deepening frustration with Russia’s losses on the Ukrainian battlefield. Some officials fear that frustration could turn into despair. There are also questions about whether Russia’s self-proclaimed annexation of eastern Ukraine earlier this year means Russia is willing to take more extreme measures to protect the area.

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Some more context. The US is also monitoring Russian operations around the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces are trying to retake from Russian forces in a counteroffensive. Russian officials have ordered an evacuation of the city in recent weeks, and the US is worried that if Ukraine drives the Russians out in a humiliating defeat, it could be the kind of trigger that prompts Putin to resort to tactical nuclear weapons. That’s one of the scenarios predicted by the intelligence assessment, although officials stressed that Kherson is not the only hub for the product.

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The New York Times first reported the intelligence assessment. But internal disagreements about the quality of intelligence and how to interpret it have not been previously reported.

CNN’s Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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