David Petraeus, the former head of the CIA and one of the most esteemed generals of his generation, told ABC News on Oct. 2 that if Russian uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the entire occupation army of the Russian Federation could hypothetically be destroyed along with its equipment.
Petraeus emphasized that there is little the Russian military can do to turn the tide of a Ukrainian counteroffensive that is gaining momentum by the day. “[Putin] faces a situation that is irreversible. There is no amount of shambolic mobilization, which is the only way to describe it, no amount of annexation, no amount even of veiled nuclear threats, that can actually get him out of this particular situation.”
Asked how the United States might respond to Russia’s use of a tactical nuclear weapon, the former general said, “We would respond by leading a NATO collective effort that would take out every Russian conventional force that we could see and identify on the battlefield in Ukraine and Crimea, as well as all Russian ships in the Black Sea Fleet.”
Such a conventional attack by the US would be enough, and there would be no need to retaliate with a nuclear strike, he said.
“This cannot go unanswered. But it doesn’t expand, it’s not nuclear for nuclear. You don’t want to get involved in a nuclear escalation,” Petraeus added. “But you must show that this cannot be accepted in any way.”
The specter of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons in the war against Ukraine has been actively discussed recently, not only by the Ukrainian press and politicians but also in the West.
After the announcement of a partial mobilization in the Russian Federation, Russian President Vladimir Putin again threatened Western countries by alluding to the use of nuclear weapons. Western leaders condemned Putin’s rhetoric as dangerous escalation and “saber-rattling.”
According to Western media reports, the U.S. believes that the likelihood of Putin using tactical weapons in the war against Ukraine, while higher than at any point since February 24, is still unlikely.
Western capitals are already considering scenarios for responding in the event the Kremlin opts to use nuclear weapons. Jake Sullivan, U.S. President Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor said that the U.S. has privately warned Russia of “catastrophic” consequences should they use any weapons of mass destruction.
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