Behind closed doors, the U.S. government apparently warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against the use of nuclear weapons. Now, President Joe Biden’s administration is sending the message through the media. Pentagon and U.S. officials made the rounds on Sunday talk shows Sept. 25 issuing the warning publicly.
But on Sept. 28, Russia announced that it would formally annex four regions of Ukraine partially controlled by its military.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a press conference that Putin would attend a ceremony on Sept. 29 on the accession of the four regions — Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia — at the Kremlin’s St. George’s Hall, NBC News reported.
“There will be a big speech by Putin there too,” Peskov said.
The White House surely won’t be happy about this, especially after it has continually warned Russia off of Ukraine, urging Putin to end his occupation. On Feb. 24, Russia invaded Ukraine.
On Sept. 21, Putin said he was not above using nuclear weapons if the West, particularly the U.S., interfered in his actions in Ukraine.
“Russia will use all the instruments at its disposal to counter a threat against its territorial integrity—this is not a bluff,” Putin said in a 15-minute national address in which he blamed the West for the conflict.
“To those who allow themselves such statements, I would like to remind them, Russia also has many types of weapons of destruction, the components of which in some cases are more modern than those of the countries of NATO,” continued Putin.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that the consequences “would be catastrophic if Russia went down the dark road of nuclear weapons use.” Sullivan clarified that “In private channels we have spelled out in greater detail exactly what that would mean.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said more of the same in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”
“It’s very important that Moscow hear from us and know from us that the consequences would be horrific, and we’ve made that very clear,” Blinken said, adding that the U.S. response would be “catastrophic” without explaining.
Biden made similar comments months ago. In a guest essay in The New York Times in May Biden said that “any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences.”
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks at a press briefing at the White House in Washington, Sept. 20, 2022. (AP Andrew Harnik) / Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sept. 21, 2022. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) / Dec. 4, 1989 file photo shows U.S. Navy launching a Trident II, D-5 missile from the submerged submarine USS Tennessee in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida (AP Phil Sandlin, File)