President Biden has warned the world could face “Armageddon” if Vladimir Putin uses a tactical nuclear weapon to try to win the war in Ukraine.
The US President made his most outspoken remarks to date about the threat of nuclear war at a Democratic fundraiser in New York on Thursday, saying it was the closest the world had come to nuclear catastrophe in the last sixty years.
“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis,” he said.
The thirteen-day showdown in 1962 that followed the U.S. discovery of the Soviet Union’s secret deployment of nuclear weapons to Cuba is regarded by experts as the closest the world has ever come to nuclear annihilation. The crisis during President John F. Kennedy’s administration sparked a renewed focus on arms control on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Biden: Putin not joking on use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine
“We’ve got a guy I know fairly well,” Biden said, referring to the Russian President. “He’s not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming.”
Putin and his officials have repeatedly threatened to use Russia’s nuclear arsenal in an effort to deter the US and its allies from supporting Ukraine and helping it resist the all-out Russian invasion launched in February.
One fear is that he could use a short-range “tactical” nuclear weapon to try to stop Ukraine’s counter-offensive in its tracks and force Kyiv to negotiate and cede territory.
For the “first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have the threat of a nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path they are going,” the US President said.
“We are trying to figure out what is Putin’s off-ramp?” Biden inquired. “Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself [when] he does not only lose face but significant power?”
Biden also challenged Russian nuclear doctrine, warning that the use of a lower-yield tactical weapon could quickly spiral out of control into global destruction.
“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,” Biden said.
Earlier on Thursday, Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, said Putin understood that the “world will never forgive” a Russian nuclear strike.
“He understands that after the use of nuclear weapons he would be unable any more to preserve, so to speak, his life, and I’m confident of that,” Zelensky announced.