U.S. Warned Russia’s Putin Against Using Nuclear Weapons – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dire warnings of nuclear conflict have not gone ignored, despite repeated promises from NATO allies to continue providing support for Ukraine following Russia’s proclaimed annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia.
In the fact of heightened conflict in the region, and the possibility of escalation from Russia, United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reportedly warned the Russians against using tactical nuclear weapons.
In an interview with CNN aired on Saturday, Austin slammed the Kremlin’s “nuclear saber-rattling” and said that there has not been any clear indication so far that Putin has decided to deploy nuclear weapons in Ukraine – at least for now.
Austin stressed that, should nuclear weapons be used, they will be deployed under the orders of one man – the Russian president.
“There are no checks on Mr. Putin. Just as he made the irresponsible decision to invade Ukraine, you know, he could make another decision,” Austin said. “But I don’t see anything right now that would lead me to believe that he has made such a decision.”
What Did Austin Tell Russia?
During the same interview, the White House official said that he had privately discussed the matter with Russia’s Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu. Austin said that he told the Russian official to “not go down this path” – though, the conversation reportedly took place earlier on in the conflict.
“Personally, I have not talked to Shoigu in recent days, but I have talked to him in the past,” Austin said. “And I have addressed this very issue, too, and warned to not go down this path and conduct this type of irresponsible behavior.”
Does Russia Care?
The fact that Austin’s conversation with Shoigu apparently took place earlier during the conflict means that the White House’s warnings, while unchanged, may have less of an effect on the decisions being made by Putin and his colleagues.
While the Kremlin is certainly aware that the United States and NATO do not want to see a nuclear conflict, that’s precisely the reason why Putin and other Russian officials are warning that it could happen. With a struggling war effort in Ukraine and lacking military resources, Putin knows that the prospect of nuclear conflict could be enough to stop the West’s continued support for Ukraine.
Following recent promises from NATO forces to continue aiding Ukraine, however, Putin may be forced to take decisive action – whether that’s actually deploying nuclear weapons in Ukraine or positioning his military in a way that suggests he’s on the verge of making a decision.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.