US Warns Putin But Far From Nuclear Expansion Language
US-led NATO troops can find and destroy all Russian military targets on Ukrainian soil, retired General David Petraeus said in a televised interview last weekend. The veteran general and former director of CIA intelligence envisions Putin’s reaction to nuclear aggression: All Russian troops in Crimea and every ship in the Black Sea rendered harmless.
With Putin threatening nuclear weapons more emphatically, even President Joe Biden’s diplomats and advisers are making it increasingly clear that the United States intends to act tough if such a doomsday scenario becomes reality. Jake Sullivan, the Biden administration’s chief national security adviser, has repeatedly told US television that Russia faces “catastrophic consequences.” Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken predicted ‘dire’ consequences.
As a major supplier of financial and military aid, the United States has already played a major role in Ukraine’s struggle to expel the Russian aggressor from its territory. American weapons in particular make possible the recent advances of the Ukrainian military. Warnings from Biden sources suggest that if Putin uses nuclear weapons, the U.S. will become more involved.
Joe Biden already spoke in an article in the spring about the serious consequences of “the use of nuclear weapons on any scale in this conflict.” In an interview last week, he was vague about what those consequences would be, perhaps intentionally, in the hope that the Kremlin would become more concerned about US intervention. The US often uses such ‘strategic ambiguity’ as a deterrent. “Depending on what they do, we determine what the response will be,” Biden said.
The US also has a nuclear arsenal, but has not mentioned it in its responses to Putin’s threats. White House officials have indicated in the US media that the United States does not intend to use nuclear weapons in such an event. “It’s not nuclear versus nuclear. You don’t want to end up with nuclear proliferation here,” Petraeus said. “But you have to show that there’s no way we’re going to accept this.”
The US military command is examining various scenarios and has already formulated response plans. Biden’s team has also consistently pointed out in recent weeks that the United States has seen no signs that Russia is actually deploying nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, the Americans were well aware of Russian plans to invade Ukraine and warned the world about the invasion.
Behind the scenes, the Americans have been communicating with the Kremlin’s top brass for months to make clear that the United States will take tough action. “Russia understands very well what the United States would do to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine because we spelled it out for them,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan, Biden’s security chief, is known for his in-depth research into the dangers of nuclear proliferation. In his own words, he is now trying to prevent the warring language from further escalating tensions between the two nuclear powers. He prefers not to ‘engage’ in rhetorical attacks and retaliatory games.
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