US President Joe Biden stated Thursday that the potential of nuclear “Armageddon” is at its highest since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, as Russian leaders discuss utilizing tactical nuclear weapons after suffering huge setbacks in their eight-month invasion of Ukraine.
Biden claimed at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee event that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “a guy I know quite well” and that the Russian leader was “not joking when he talks about the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons.”
“We have not faced the danger of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Biden remarked. He claimed Putin’s threat is serious “because his military is — you might say — badly underperforming.” US officials have been warning for months that Russia may deploy weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine as it has suffered a series of strategic failures on the battlefield, but Biden’s words were the sternest warnings yet given by the US government about the nuclear dangers.
It was unclear whether Biden was referring to a revised assessment of Russian intentions. However, as late as last week, US officials stated that they have seen no change in Russia’s nuclear forces that would need a change in the alert posture of US nuclear forces. “We have seen no cause to modify our own strategic nuclear posture, nor have we seen any evidence that Russia is ready to deploy nuclear weapons in the near future,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.
Experts consider the 13-day standoff in 1962 that followed the United States revelation of the Soviet Union’s secret deployment of nuclear weapons to Cuba to be the closest the world has ever gotten to nuclear catastrophe. During US President John F. Kennedy’s administration, the crisis refocused attention on arms control on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Biden on Russian nuclear doctrine
Biden also questioned Russian nuclear doctrine, warning that using a lower-yield tactical bomb might easily spiral out of control, resulting in a global disaster. “I don’t believe there is such a thing as being able to quickly use a tactical nuclear weapon without causing Armageddon,” Biden stated. He went on to say that he is still “trying to figure out” Putin’s “off-ramp” in Ukraine.
“How does he find his way out?” Biden inquired. “How does he end himself in a position where he not only loses face but also tremendous power within Russia?” Putin has already hinted at utilizing his country’s massive nuclear weapons, most recently when he revealed plans to recruit Russian men to serve in Ukraine.
Last week, White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the US had been “clear” with Russia about the “consequences” of using a nuclear bomb in Ukraine. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warned earlier Thursday that Putin believed that a Russian nuclear strike would be “forgiven” by the world.
Biden’s remarks occurred during a private fundraiser for Democratic Senate candidates at the home of James and Kathryn Murdoch in Manhattan. In such settings, which are only open to a handful of reporters without cameras or recording equipment, he tends to be more unreserved, often speaking with only sketchy notes.
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