President Joe Biden issued a stark warning on Thursday of the dangers behind the Russian president Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats as Moscow continues to face military setbacks in Ukraine.
“For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we have a direct threat of the use of (a) nuclear weapon if, in fact, things continue on the path they are on,” Biden warned during an interview. a speech at a Democratic fundraiser in New York. where he was presented by James Murdochthe youngest son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, according to the pool report.
He added: “I don’t think there is such a thing as the ability (to) easily use a tactical nuke and not end up with Armageddon.”
It’s striking that the president speaks so candidly and invokes Armageddon, especially at a fundraiser, when his National Security Council aides at the State Department at the Pentagon spoke in much more measured terms, saying they take the threats seriously but see no movement from the Kremlin.
“I’m trying to figure out what is Putin’s exit ramp?” Biden said at the event, “Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself in a position where he not only loses face but loses significant power in Russia?
His comments come as the United States considers how to respond to a range of potential scenarios, including fears the Russians may use tactical nukesaccording to three sources briefed on the latest information and previously reported by CNN.
Officials warned as recently as Thursday that the United States had undetected preparations for a nuclear strike. However, experts see them as potential options for the United States to prepare for as the Russian invasion wanes and Moscow annexes more Ukrainian territory.
“This nuclear saber blast is reckless and irresponsible,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. General Pat Ryder said earlier Thursday. “As I mentioned before, at this point we have no information to cause us to change our strategic deterrence posture, and we do not assess that President Putin made the decision to use nuclear weapons. for the moment.”
Following Biden’s remarks, officials told CNN Thursday night that they saw no change in Russia’s nuclear stance.
A US official said that despite Biden’s warning that the world is the closest to a nuclear crisis since the 1960s, they haven’t seen a change in Russia’s nuclear stance so far. Tuesday’s statement by White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre that there was no indication of a change in Russia’s position and therefore no change in the United States’ position. United, the official said.
A senior US government official expressed surprise at the president’s remarks, saying there were no clear signs of a growing threat from Russia.
While there’s no doubt Russia’s nuclear stance is taken seriously, the official said the president’s language at a fundraiser tonight caught other government officials off guard.
“Nothing was detected today that reflects an escalation,” said the official, who then defended Biden’s remarks due to the current seriousness of the matter.
At the fundraiser, Biden spoke clearly about the threat officials believe Russia poses, a person familiar with his thinking told CNN.
Still, US officials have taken a grim note of the Russian president’s repeated public threats to use nuclear weapons. In a televised address late last month, Putin said: “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will undoubtedly use all available means to protect Russia and our people. It’s not a bluff. »
Last Friday, at a ceremony in which he announced the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regionsPutin said Russia would use “all available means” to defend the areas, adding that the United States had “set a precedent” for nuclear attacks when it bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
“We have a guy I know pretty well,” Biden said of Putin on Thursday. “He’s not kidding when he talks about the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, grossly underperforming.”
This story has been updated with additional information.