As Russian officials discuss the likelihood of using tactical nuclear weapons after experiencing serious setbacks in their eight-month long invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden declared on Thursday, Oct. 6 that the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” is at its highest point since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Biden claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “a guy I know fairly well” and that Putin wasn’t joking when he mentioned using tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons.
Speaking at a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Biden underlined that “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Putin posed a serious threat, he claimed, “because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming.”
Despite months of warnings from American officials about the possibility that Russia might use WMD in Ukraine as a result of a number of tactical defeats, Biden’s remarks represented the U.S. government’s most direct statements to date regarding the nuclear risks.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Biden was making reference to a fresh evaluation of Russian intentions. However, as recently as this week, American officials claimed they had not observed any modification to Russia’s nuclear arsenal that would have necessitated a change in the alert status of American nuclear forces.
“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture, nor do we have indication that Russia is preparing to imminently use nuclear weapons,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the press secretary for the White House, said on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
Biden also questioned the Russian nuclear doctrine and cautioned that the use of a tactical weapon with a lower yield could quickly turn into total global collapse.
“I don’t think there is any such a thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon,” Biden added.
He went on to say that he was “trying to figure out” where Putin was “off-ramp[ing]” in Ukraine.
“Where does he find a way out?” Biden asked, adding “Where does he find himself in a position that he does not not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia?”
Putin has frequently hinted at using his nation’s sizable nuclear arsenal, most recently when he announced plans last month to mobilize more Russian men to fight in Ukraine.
Making his mobilization announcement on Sep. 21, Putin said “I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction … and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal.”
It’s not a bluff, Putin continued on Sep. 21, as he fixed a long gaze on the camera.
United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said last week that the U. S. had been “clear” with Russia about the “consequences” of using a nuclear weapon in Ukraine.
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