US Has Been Quietly Warning Russia Not to Go Nuclear

Putin's veiled threat came after months of backchannel warnings: reports
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2022 10:54 AM CDT
US Has Quietly Warned Russia Against Nuke Use for Months
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, on Friday.   (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Vladimir Putin's veiled warning about the use of nuclear weapons to defend Russia came after months of backchannel warnings from the US about exactly such behavior. Officials tell the Washington Post and CNN that the US has consistently warned Russia for months in private communications about the grave consequences of using a nuclear weapon, though without mentioning specifics. Asked what he would tell the Russian president if he is considering using nuclear weapons in Ukraine during a 60 Minutes interview, President Biden gave a succinct answer: "Don't. Don't. Don't."

"You will change the face of war unlike anything since World War II," Biden continued, adding the "consequential" US response would depend "on the extent of what they do." The deliberate vagueness is a way to keep Russia guessing, per the Post. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the message Thursday at the UN General Assembly in New York, saying Russia's "reckless nuclear threats must stop immediately," per CNN. The same day, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, wrote on Telegram that "any Russian weapon, including strategic nuclear ones and those using new principles"—meaning hypersonic weapons—could be used to defend Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia.

"What everyone needs to recognize is that this is one of, if not the most, severe episodes in which nuclear weapons might be used in decades," Daryl Kimball, executive director of the nonproliferation advocacy group Arms Control Association, tells the Post. "The consequences of even a so-called 'limited nuclear war' would be absolutely catastrophic." Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is putting on a brave face regardless. "Threatening with nuclear weapons... to Ukrainians?" he tweeted Wednesday. "Putin have not yet understood who he is dealing with." US officials have said there's no sign that Russia is moving nuclear weapons in preparation for a strike. (Read more Russia stories.)

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