A Russian BTR-82A armoured personnel carrier, Iskander-M missile launchers and MSTA-S self-propelled howitzers drive in Red Square during a parade on Victory Day, which marks the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2022.
Washington CNN  — 

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

The assessment, drafted by the National Intelligence Council, is not a high confidence product and is not raw intelligence but rather analysis, multiple people who have read it told CNN. For that reason, some officials believe the conversations reflected in the document may have been taken out of context, and do not necessarily indicate that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.

The US has still not seen any signs that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to take the drastic step of using one, officials said, and Putin is not believed to have been involved in the discussions described in the NIC product.

But others within the administration who have viewed the document have reacted with concern, because it provides a rare window into conversations between senior Russian generals and reveals their intensifying frustration about Russia’s losses on the battlefield in Ukraine. That frustration could turn into desperation, some officials fear. There are also questions about whether Russia’s self-declared annexation of eastern Ukraine earlier this year means Russia is willing to take more extreme measures to protect that territory.