The U.S. has privately been warning the Kremlin for months of consequences if they use a nuclear weapon in their conflict with Ukraine, according to officials.
Anonymous officials told The Washington Post that the White House has publicly been purposefully vague about what those consequences would be in an attempt to build concern among Russian leaders, a method of nuclear deterrence called “strategic ambiguity.”
President Biden underlined his opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons in an interview with CBS’s “60 minutes” on Sunday, where he warned the Russian leader not to “change the face of war.”
“Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. You will change the face of war unlike anything since World War II,” Biden said when host Scott Pelley asked for a message to Putin concerning weapons of mass destruction.
Biden added that the U.S. response to Russian use of nuclear weapons would depend on “the extent of what they do.”
Deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev stoked fears about Russia’s possible use of weapons when he announced on Thursday that the country would be willing to use “strategic nuclear weapons” to protect itself.
“The protection of all joined territories will be significantly strengthened by the Russian Armed Forces,” wrote Medvedev on Telegram.
“Russia announced that not only mobilization capabilities, but also any Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons and weapons based on new principles, could be used for such protection.”
Ukrainian Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander in chief of the country’s armed forces, and Lt. Gen. Mykhailo Zabrodskyi predicted earlier this month in an article that nuclear war was a “threat.”
“It is hard to imagine that even nuclear strikes will allow Russia to break Ukraine’s will to resist,” the two wrote for state news outlet Ukrinform.
“But the threat that will emerge for the whole of Europe cannot be ignored.”
The pair encouraged Ukraine’s Western allies to employ their “entire arsenal of means” to prevent the possibility of nuclear war.