US President Joe Biden has said he does not believe Russia will deploy nuclear weapons in Ukraine, toning down prior remarks in which he suggested the conflict could result in all-out “Armageddon.”
Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper for an interview on Tuesday, Biden was asked whether he thought his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin would authorize the use of a tactical nuclear weapon.
“I don’t think he will. I think it’s irresponsible for him to talk about it, the idea that a world leader of one of the largest nuclear powers in the world says he may use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine,” the president said.
Though Putin has never made such a threat, and has made no mention of a “tactical” weapon in particular, he vowed on multiple occasions to defend Russia’s territory and people using “all the means available to us” – remarks widely interpreted as a nuclear warning by Western pundits and officials.
During a fundraiser last week, Biden declared that nuclear tensions were at their highest point since the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s, and warned that the war raging in Ukraine could ultimately lead to “Armageddon.” Asked to elaborate on those comments by Tapper, the commander in chief pointed to potential “mistakes” and “miscalculations.”
“The whole point I was making was it could lead to just a horrible outcome. And not because anybody intends to turn it into a world war or anything, but just once you use a nuclear weapon, the mistakes that can be made, the miscalculations, who knows what would happen,” Biden said.
In the days since Biden’s warning of “Armageddon,” administration officials have clarified that they have seen no “new indications” that Russia plans to use nuclear weapons, with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stating that there’s no sign Moscow has made such a decision, or even “done anything to get closer to that decision making process.”
Asked how the United States would respond if Russia used a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, Biden declined to offer details, stating that while there had been “discussions” about that possibility, “it would be irresponsible of me to talk about what we would or wouldn’t do.”