US President Joe Biden has warned that as Russian leader Vladimir Putin runs out of options in Ukraine, the threat of outright nuclear war is now closer than at any time since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis
Speaking at a fundraising event for the Democratic Party in New York last night, the President said: “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis”.
He added that Russian leader Vladimir Putin was “not joking” when he threatened to use “tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons” to shock Volodymyr Zelesnkyy's government into surrender.
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Biden said that Putin had bitten off more than he could chew with Ukraine. “His military is, you might say, significantly underperforming,” he said.
He said that as the defeats pile up, Russian military and defence officials have begun to fight among themselves, leaving Putin increasingly isolated and looking for an exit strategy.
A mobilisation of 300,000 new conscripts to reinforce the failing Russian presence in Ukraine, has led to widespread protests and huge numbers of Russian men fleeing the country.
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“Where does he find a way out?” Biden said. “Where does he find himself in a position that he does not not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia?”
One option for Putin would be to terrorise Ukraine into submission with weapons of destruction.
The Russian leader has made several ominous hints about this ultimate option since the beginning of the Ukraine invasion. Most recently Putin darkly hinted at Russia’s deadly arsenal as he announced the mobilisation of military reservists last month.
“I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction,” he said, “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”.
He added: “It is not a bluff.”
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Biden stressed that there’s no such thing as a one-off nuclear attack.
“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,” he said.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that the US had been “clear” with Russia about the consequences of using even one nuclear weapon in Ukraine.
“This is something that we are . . . taking very seriously, and communicating directly with Russia about, including the kind of decisive responses the United States would have if they went down that dark road,” Sullivan said.
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