Senior Russian military commanders recently discussed how and when the Kremlin would use tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) in Ukraine, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
According to the report, President Vladimir Putin was not part of the conversation. Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said on Tuesday that there were no indications that the Russian leader "has made a decision at this time to employ nuclear weapons."
Also on Tuesday, Security Council of the Russian Federation deputy chairman Dmitry Medvedev said on Telegram that Kyiv's objectives to return all occupied territories to its control constituted an existential threat to Russia and would allow for the use of nuclear weapons.
"New, troubling developments"
According to the Times, intelligence reports about the nuclear weapons conversations were shared within the US government in mid-October.
On October 25, A senior US official told the Times that there were "new, troubling developments" involving Russia's nuclear arsenal, but did not provide additional information.
Dirty bombs and tactical nukes
The report came as Russia was claiming that Ukrainian forces were preparing to use a dirty bomb or even a nuclear bomb.
According to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a dirty bomb is "a type of 'radiological dispersal device' that combines a conventional explosive, such as dynamite, with radioactive material... Most RDDs would not release enough radiation to kill people or cause severe illness – the conventional explosive itself would be more harmful to people than the radioactive material... A dirty bomb is not a "weapon of mass destruction" but a "weapon of mass disruption," where contamination and anxiety are the major objectives."
Ukraine responded at the time that the persistent Russian claims that Kyiv planned to detonate a dirty bomb made it appear as though Moscow itself planned to conduct a false flag operation, and that Ukraine has never had any plans to develop a dirty bomb.
Tactical nuclear weapons are lower-yield bombs that would allow the destruction of enemies on the battlefield, rather than strategic weapons launched to cause mass destruction to an enemy. TNWs have never been used in combat.