On Thursday, President Joe Biden said the “Armageddon” nuclear risk was at its highest level since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, as Russian officials talked about the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons. after suffering major setbacks during the eight-month invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking at a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Advocacy Committee, Mr Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “someone I know quite well” and that the Russian leader “didn’t joke when it came to talking about… use tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons.”
Biden added, “We haven’t faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.” He thinks the threat from Putin is real “because his military is – you might say – significantly underperforming.”
US officials have for months warned of the prospect that Russia could use weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine as the country faces a series of strategic defeats on the battlefield, despite Mr Biden’s remarks. marks the clearest warning the US government has issued about nuclear stocks.
It remains unclear if Biden mentioned any new assessment of Russia’s intentions. Most recently this week, however, US officials said they see no change to Russia’s nuclear force, which would require a change in the forces’ vigilance. US nuclear.
“We see no reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture, nor are there any indications that Russia is preparing to use weapons,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. nuclear gas”.
The 13-day protest in 1962 after the United States discovered that the Soviet Union had secretly deployed nuclear weapons to Cuba was considered by experts to be the closest the world had come to nuclear annihilation. The crisis in the administration of President John F. Kennedy has sparked a renewed focus on arms control on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Biden also challenged Russia’s nuclear doctrine, warning that the use of less productive tactical weapons could quickly spiral out of control and lead to global destruction.
“I don’t think it’s possible to easily use tactical nuclear weapons and not end up with Armageddon,” Biden said.
He added that he was still “trying to find” Putin’s “preemptive shortcut” path in Ukraine.
“Where does he find his way out?” Biden asked. “Where does he find himself in which not only has lost face, but has also lost considerable power in Russia?”
Putin has repeatedly hinted at using his country’s vast nuclear arsenal, including last month when he announced plans to send Russians to serve in Ukraine.
“I would like to remind you that our country also has many means of destruction … and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people , we will certainly use all means at our disposal,” Putin said September 21, adding with a stare into the camera, “It’s not a hoax.”
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan last week said the United States had “made clear” to Russia about the “consequences” of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
“This is something that we are pleased with, very seriously, and speak to directly with Russia, including the decisive response that the United States will have if they go down that dark path,” said Sullivan.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday said Putin understood that “the world will never forgive” a Russian nuclear attack.
“He understands that after using nuclear weapons he will no longer be able to preserve, so to speak, his life, and I am sure of that,” Zelenskyy said.
Biden’s comments came during a private fundraiser for Democratic Senate candidates at the Manhattan home of James and Kathryn Murdoch. He tends to be more unprotected – often speaking only on rough notes – in such environments, only to a small number of reporters without cameras or recording equipment.