VIPS: Putin Nuke Warning is Not an Idle Threat

By Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS),, 5/1/22

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Nuclear Weapons Cannot Be Un-invented, Thus …
REF: Our Memo of 12/20/21, “Don’t Be Suckered on Russia

May 1, 2022

Mr. President:

Mainstream media have marinated the minds of most Americans in a witches’ brew of misleading information on Ukraine – and on the exceedingly high stakes of the war. On the chance you are not getting the kind of “untreated” intelligence President Truman hoped for by restructuring intelligence, we offer below a 12-point factsheet. Some of us were intelligence analysts during the Cuban missile crisis and see a direct parallel in Ukraine. As to VIPs’ credibility, our record since Jan. 2003 – whether on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, or Russia – speaks for itself.

  1. The growing possibility that nuclear weapons might be used, as hostilities in Ukraine continue to escalate, merits your full attention.
  2. For almost 77 years, a common awareness of the awesome destructiveness of atomic/nuclear weapons created an (ironically stabilizing) balance of terror called deterrence. Nuclear-armed countries have generally avoided threatening to use nukes against other nuclear-armed countries.
  3. Putin’s recent reminders of Russia’s nuclear weapons capability can easily fit into the category of deterrence. It can also be read as a warning that he is prepared to use them in extremis.
  4. Extremis? Yes; Putin regards Western interference in Ukraine, particularly since the coup d’etat in Feb. 2014, as an existential threat. In our view, he is determined to rid Russia of this threat, and Ukraine is now a must-win for Putin. We cannot rule out the possibility that, backed into a corner, he might authorize a limited nuclear strike with modern missiles that fly many times the speed of sound.
  5. Existential threat? Moscow sees U.S. military involvement in Ukraine as precisely the same kind of strategic threat President Kennedy saw in Khrushchev’s attempt to put nuclear missiles in Cuba in violation of the Monroe Doctrine. Putin complains that US”ABM” missile sites in Romania and Poland can be modified, by simply inserting an alternate compact disk, to launch missiles against Russia’s ICBM force.
  6. As for putting missile sites in Ukraine, according to the Kremlin readout of your Dec. 30, 2021 telephone conversation with Putin, you told him the US”had no intention of deploying offensive strike weapons in Ukraine”. So far as we know, there has been no objection to the accuracy of that Russian readout. Nevertheless, your reported assurance to Putin disappeared into thin air – contributing, we imagine, to Russia’s growing distrust.
  7. Russia can no longer doubt that the US and NATO aim to weaken Russia (and to remove him, if possible) – and that the West also believes it can accomplish this by pouring weapons into Ukraine and urging the Ukrainians to fight on. We think these aims are delusional.
  8. If Secretary Austin believes that Ukraine can “win” against Russian forces – he is mistaken. You will recall that many of Austin’s predecessors – McNamara, Rumsfeld, Gates, for example – kept assuring earlier presidents that corrupt regimes could “win” – against foes far less formidable than Russia.
  9. The notion that Russia is internationally “isolated” also seems delusional. China can be counted on to do what it can to prevent Putin from “losing” in Ukraine – first and foremost because Beijing has been designated “next in line”, so to speak. Surely, President Xi Jin-Ping has been briefed on the Pentagon’s “2022 National Defense Strategy” identifying China as the #1 “threat”. Russia-China entente marks a tectonic shift in the world correlation of forces. It is not possible to exaggerate its significance.
  10. Nazi sympathizers in Ukraine will not escape attention on May 9, as Russia celebrates the 77th anniversary of the victory by the Allies over Nazi Germany. Every Russian knows that more than 26 million Soviets died during that war (including Putin’s older brother Viktor during the merciless, 872-day blockade of Leningrad). Denazification of Ukraine is one of the key factors accounting for Putin’s approval level of above 80 percent.
  11. The Ukraine conflict can be called “The Mother of All Opportunity Costs”. In last year’s “Threat Assessment”, National Intelligence Director Avril Haines identified climate change as a major national security and “human security” challenge that can only be met by nations working together. War in Ukraine is already diverting much needed attention from this impending threat to coming generations.
  12. We note that we sent our first Memorandum of this genre to President George W. Bush on Feb. 5, 2003, critiquing Colin Powell’s unconfirmed-intelligence-stuffed speech at the UN earlier that day. We sent two follow-up Memos in March 2003 warning the president that intelligence was being “cooked” to justify war, but were ignored. We end this Memo with the same appeal we made, in vain, to George W. Bush: “You would be well served if you widened the discussion beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.

Lastly, we repeat the offer we made to you last December (in the VIPs Memorandum referenced above): ‘We stand ready to support you with objective, tell-it-like-it-is analysis.’ We suggest you might benefit from “outside” input from veteran intelligence officers with many decades of experience on the “inside”.

FOR THE STEERING GROUP: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

  • Fulton Armstrong, former National Intelligence Officer for Latin America & former National Security Council Director for Inter-American Affairs (ret.)
  • William Binney, NSA Technical Director for World Geopolitical & Military Analysis; Co-founder of NSA’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center (ret.)
  • Richard H. Black, Former Virginia Senator; Col. US Army (ret.); Former Chief, Criminal Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, the Pentagon (associate VIPS)
  • Graham E. Fuller,Vice-Chair, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
  • Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
  • Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
  • Larry Johnson, former CIA Intelligence Officer & former State Department Counter-Terrorism Official (ret.)
  • Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF Intelligence Agency (ret.), former Master SERE Instructor
  • John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Edward Loomis, Cryptologic Computer Scientist, former Technical Director at NSA (ret.)
  • Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst; CIA Presidential briefer (ret.)
  • Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council & CIA political analyst (ret.)
  • Pedro Israel Orta, former CIA and Intelligence Community (Inspector General) officer
  • Todd Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
  • Theodore Postol, Professor Emeritus, MIT (Physics). Former Science and Policy Adviser for Weapons Technology to the Chief of Naval Operations (associate VIPS)
  • Scott Ritter, former MAJ., USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq
  • Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)
  • Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA (ret.)
  • Sarah G. Wilton, CDR, USNR, (Retired)/DIA, (Retired)
  • Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)
  • Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (resigned in opposition to the war on Iraq)

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPs) is made up of former intelligence officers, diplomats, military officers and congressional staffers. The organization, founded in 2002, was among the first critics of Washington’s justifications for launching a war against Iraq. VIPS advocates a US foreign and national security policy based on genuine national interests rather than contrived threats promoted for largely political reasons. An archive of VIPS memoranda is available at

5 thoughts on “VIPS: Putin Nuke Warning is Not an Idle Threat”

  1. VIPS have been a source of informed opinion and prudent counsel on national security and foreign policy for twenty years. Successive administrations have ignored their advice to the detriment of America and the world.

  2. Knowledgeable people telling it like it is, and nobody in DC is listening. Again.


    I’m trying to come up with something useful to add, but all I can think is, “we are so screwed…”

  3. If ever proof was needed that man made climate change is NOT an existential (or much of any) threat to the planet, Avril Haines’ comment confirms it :

    “In last year’s “Threat Assessment”, National Intelligence Director Avril Haines identified climate change as a major national security and “human security” challenge that can only be met by nations working together. ”

    It was really good up to that point. Very disappointing to know that these well briefed individuals are falling for this junk science scare mongering.

  4. The thing that amuses me the most about the western MSM regarding this issue is that at no point since this SMO started has Putin mentioned the words nuclear weapons. There are two supposed times when he referred to consequences for the West if interfering in Russia directly or threatening its strategic stability but neither times did he mention nukes. In fact being a bit of a military weapons buff I immediately (and I think correctly) assumed he was referring to Russias rather impressive arsenal of hypersonic conventional weapons, which in themselves would cause catastrophic losses to both the US and the European mainland due to their total inability to be countered with any existing missile defence system. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think I am (especially the ‘lighting speed’ response statement.) Now that it has become the talking point I believe the Russians have allowed the topic to ‘travel’ as it where, without making attempts to correct it, although Maria Zakharova did point out during a press conference that all this talk of nuclear war was not prudent, nor accurate and the idea that RF would resort to them in Ukraine was way wide of the mark. The Western press seems to have ignored this. Only at the weekend did I see what I would deem a ‘nuclear’ riposte to Bojo ‘the clown’ Johnsons nuclear rhetoric when Russia One had an interesting show on the TV which illustrated how the Status 6 Poseidon system would effect the UK mainland should Russia decide to use it, and mighty interesting it was too but I believe it was perhaps a little tongue in cheek, overkill we might say, as I doubt Poseidon would be used on such a small target as the UK, it being designed with the East or West coast of America in mind, submerging say New York State under a toxic tsunami of Cobalt 65 saturated sea water. Either way the genie is now out of the bottle and I’m damned if it will go back in. The first casualty of war is the truth, as they say.

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