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White House: US will ‘respond decisively’ if Russia uses nuclear weapons

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin (Reuters file photo)

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan has said the United States will “respond decisively” if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, while Moscow has advised Washington of its nuclear “red line”.

“We have communicated directly, privately, at very high levels, to the Kremlin that any use of nuclear weapons will be met with catastrophic consequences for Russia, that the United States and our allies will respond decisively. And we have been clear and specific about what that will entail,” Sullivan told CBS “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan on Sunday.

“We have, in public, been equally clear as a matter of principle that the United States will respond decisively if Russia uses nuclear weapons, and that we will continue to support Ukraine in its efforts to defend its country and defend its democracy.”

US President Joe Biden has warned Putin against thoughts of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, adding that it would “change the face of war unlike anything since WWII.”

Biden said last week Moscow would become a global pariah if it uses weapons of mass destruction on the former Soviet state.

Putin last week hinted at being willing to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Putin in a nationwide address last Wednesday called up to 300,000 reservists to aid Russia, also threatening to use the country’s nuclear weapons.

“This is not a bluff,” Putin said. “And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.”

In response to Biden's warning, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov gave reporters this short answer, "Read the doctrine. Everything is written there," RIA Novosti reported.

The Russian nuclear doctrine allows the country to use nukes in two conditions. First, when "Russia  or its ally [is under attack] with the use of mass destruction weapons," and second, "when the very existence of the state is under threat."

Russia’s former president and current deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev announced on Thursday that Russia would be willing to use “strategic nuclear weapons” to defend 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.”

Sullivan on Sunday also expressed concern over Russian military presence at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the largest such plant in Europe.

“It’s been put into cold shutdown to make it less likely that there’s some kind of catastrophic incident at the plant. It’s actually still being operated by Ukrainian operators who are essentially at gunpoint from the Russia occupying forces. And the Russians have been consistently implying that there may be some kind of accident at this plant,” said the top White House national security aide.  

Sullivan said the possible use of nuclear weapons is “a matter of paramount seriousness” that “we have to take deadly seriously.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday said Putin might not be bluffing in his latest warning of using nuclear weapons.

“Look, maybe yesterday it was bluff,” Zelensky said on CBS during an interview.

“Now, it could be a reality,” Zelensky continued. “Let’s look, what is a contemporary use of nuclear weapons or nuclear blackmail? He targeted and occupied our nuclear power plant and the city of Enerhodar.”

“They started threatening us with nuclear weapons,” Zelensky said on Sunday. “Will the world depend on one country or one person? The world has to make a decision. We have made our decision. We will not depend on one person, who is not a citizen of our country.”


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