NEW YORK (AP) — President Joe Biden said Thursday the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” is at the highest level since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, as Russian officials talk about the possibility of using weapons nuclear tactics after suffering massive setbacks in the eight-month invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking at a fundraiser for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “a guy I know quite well” and that the Russian leader “wasn’t kidding when he talked about the use of 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 suggested that Putin’s threat is real “because his military is – you might say – grossly underperforming”.
For months, US officials have warned of the possibility that Russia could use weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine as it faced a series of strategic setbacks on the battlefield, although remarks of Biden have marked the most stark warnings ever issued by the American government on nuclear issues.
It was not immediately clear if Biden was referring to a new assessment of Russian intentions. Just this week, however, U.S. officials said they had seen no change in Russian nuclear forces that would require a change in the alert posture of U.S. nuclear forces.
“We have seen no reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture, and we have no indication that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons imminently,” the White House press secretary said Tuesday. , Karine Jean-Pierre.
The 13-day standoff in 1962 that followed the US discovery of the Soviet Union’s secret deployment of nuclear weapons in Cuba is considered by experts to be the closest the world has ever come to annihilation. nuclear. The crisis under the administration of President John F. Kennedy has sparked renewed interest in arms control on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Biden also took issue with Russia’s nuclear doctrine, warning that the use of a low-yield tactical weapon could quickly spiral out of control and lead to global destruction.
“I don’t think there is such a thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuke and not end up with Armageddon,” Biden said.
He added that he was “still trying to figure out” Putin’s “exit ramp” in Ukraine.
“Where does he find a way out? Biden asked. “Where does he find himself in a position where he not only loses face but loses significant power in Russia?”
Putin has repeatedly alluded to the use of his country’s vast nuclear arsenal, including last month when he announced his intention to recruit Russian men to serve in Ukraine.
“I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction (…) 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 “, Putin said. On Sept. 21, adding with a lingering gaze at the camera, “That’s not a bluff.”
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that the United States had been “clear” with Russia about the “consequences” of using a nuclear weapon in Ukraine.
“It’s something we pay attention to, take very seriously, and communicate directly with Russia about, including the kind of decisive responses the United States would have if it were to go down this dark path,” he said. Sullivan.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier Thursday that Putin understood that “the world will never forgive” a Russian nuclear strike.
“He understands that after the use of nuclear weapons he would no longer be able to preserve, so to speak, his life, and I am convinced of that,” Zelenskyy said.
Biden’s comments came during a private fundraiser for Democratic Senate candidates at James and Kathryn Murdoch’s Manhattan home. He tends to be more unsupervised – often speaking in rough notes – in such settings, which are only open to a handful of journalists without cameras or recording devices.
Miller reported from Washington.