Retired Gen. Keith Alexander, the former National Security Agency director and head of U.S. Cyber Command, said on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to continue using cyberattacks against Ukraine before using nuclear weapons.
Alexander explained that although Russia hasn’t done significant damage so far on the cyber front, Putin is not prepared to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine, as he knows doing so could pull the U.S. and other NATO countries into the war.
“I think he will use [cyber] clearly before nuclear,” Alexander said.
“If he uses nuclear, he’s dead,” he said, adding that “if [Putin] uses the nuclear option, I believe that will cause NATO to rethink [whether] they’re in or out.”
“I think [Putin] recognizes that, and I think the administration made that clear,” he continued.
Alexander made his remarks during an event hosted by the Cyber Initiatives Group.
Putin recently said he has no intention of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, despite previous threats.
During a conference held in October, he said using nuclear weapons against Ukraine would have no political or military purpose.
“We see no need for that,” Putin said. “There is no point in that, neither political nor military.”
In response to Putin’s comments, Biden said during an interview that “if he has no intention [of using nuclear weapons], why does he keep talking about it?”
“He’s been very dangerous in how he’s approached this,” Biden added. “He can end this all, get out of Ukraine.”
The Biden administration has also repeatedly warned Russia away from using nuclear weapons.
“Let me just say Russia would be making an incredibly serious mistake if it were to use a tactical nuclear weapon,” Biden told reporters in October.
On the cyber front, Alexander praised the U.S. and other Western countries for helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian cyberattacks.
“I think [their help] stopped a lot of attacks that we would have seen elsewhere,” Alexander said. “But it’s not over. I think there will be more.”
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