CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Armageddon, apocalypse, and annihilation are all words commonly associated with the prospect of Russia using nuclear weapons.

As the war in Ukraine continues, some of Russia’s top leaders have hinted that the possibility is becoming more real.

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen has spent most of his adult life making sure that it never happens.

During his 25 years at the CIA, Mowatt-Larssen had several overseas assignments in places like Europe, the Middle East, and Russia.

Now a distinguished fellow at the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington, Mowatt-Larssen focuses on global threat reduction. He’s not thrilled about what he’s seeing in Russia’s war with Ukraine, and said that the threat of a nuclear weapon being used is the highest it has been since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Mowatt-Larssen said that the nuclear rhetoric has been turned upside down, with longstanding norms out the window.

The concept of nuclear deterrence by way of mutually assured destruction has pretty much governed the world of international defense since the 1960’s. However, new technology like tactical nuclear weapons is changing the game.

“Tactical nuclear weapons are particularly scary because they never fell under any form of arms control agreements. It’s a more tempting thing to use than a massive nuclear weapon,” Mowatt-Larssen said.

Other emerging threats include biological warfare, artificial intelligence, and climate change.

Mowatt-Larssen said that the United States needs to place more focus on perhaps less obvious areas.

“Where we’re weak is… what’s the surprise that’s going to hit us that we’re not working on? It’s like we can do everything right, and we miss the big 9/11, or we miss the collapse of the Soviet Union, we missed the Arab Spring… So something is coming. That’s our lot in life. And I worry what that thing is.”

Mowatt-Larssen said that we need to prepare for the unexpected, saying “the future of intelligence is not just placing bets on the things that are happening today, it’s preparing for things that we should expect to happen tomorrow.”