Biden says Putin’s speech and targets in Ukraine are ‘irrational’ 1:02
(CNN) — It will never feel normal to hear a President speak on camera about the danger of “Armageddon,” especially now.
But Joe Biden used an exclusive CNN interview on Tuesday to deliver another cautious but clear and chilling message to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the disastrous consequences of using nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.
Jake Tapper asked Biden, the first president since the 1980s to really do math on nuclear arsenals and deterrence, if he thought Putin, who has warned he was ready to use any option in Russia’s arsenal, might consider one to detonate the world’s arsenals the most heinous weapons as an act of desperation in a losing war.
Biden replied, “I don’t think he will.”
But the president, who first raised the issue at an off-camera fundraiser in New York last week, made it absolutely clear that he was sending a public message to Putin about the dangers of assuming that deploying a smaller tactical nuclear bomb capability isolates one Performance is event.
“What I’m talking about, I’m talking to Putin. Indeed, he cannot go on with impunity about using a tactical nuclear weapon as if it were rational,” Biden said, before warning of the dangerous consequences of such a move.
“Errors are made, miscalculations can happen, no one can be sure what would happen and it could end up in Armageddon,” he said, reiterating that a nuclear blast that kills thousands could lead to runaway events.
The danger of an escalation
Biden voices the fear of some strategists, who warn of an escalation that could occur if a nuclear bomb is used, triggering Western retaliation, though an initial US response would certainly not go beyond conventional military action.
It also seems to be trying to create a narrative of deterrence around the specific situation in Ukraine. The logic behind the US and Russia’s long-range strategic nuclear arsenals is that their deployment is deterred because conflict would be suicidal for either side. This equation does not exist in Ukraine, since the country lacks a nuclear arsenal and it is difficult to conclude that this is a vital national interest that would prompt Washington to respond in the same way if Putin were to drop a nuclear bomb. Emphasizing that even a tactical device that might be small enough to take down an airbase or big enough to wreck a city could lead to worse, Biden seems all but trying to start a new chain of calculations to create in Putin’s head.
Two moments in Tapper’s interview highlighted the burden now carried by the man who is being pursued everywhere by a military officer who carries the nation’s nuclear codes.
First, the CNN anchor asked the President to show the red line for the US and NATO in Ukraine and what Washington would do if Putin bombed a nuclear power plant in Ukraine or detonated a tactical nuclear weapon.
“It would be irresponsible of me to talk about what we would or wouldn’t do,” Biden said.
Tapper then asked the President if the Pentagon had calculated scenarios. Biden replied seriously, “You don’t have to ask the Pentagon.”
Expert: Use of a nuclear weapon in Ukraine is still ‘not a probable event’
Most experts and strategists estimate that there are many reasons why Putin would not go so far as to use a nuclear weapon, including the possible risk of radioactive fallout reaching Russia or the fact that using a tactical nuclear weapon is not really possible is sensible strategic choice in war.
But the fact that he has backed himself into a corner, coupled with his indifference to the loss of civilians, underlined this week by his callous attacks on Ukrainian cities, suggests a humanitarian push is unlikely to be part of his calculations will be. And Biden himself said in the interview that while he believed Putin was a “rational actor,” he made significant miscalculations and his goals were not rational. That leaves open the possibility of other decisions that may seem irrational to the West but reasonable in Putin’s warped logic.
That’s why Biden and the pundits who have devoted their careers to averting a nuclear apocalypse say the prospect of Putin using a nuclear weapon must be taken so seriously, even if the odds remain very slim and the US can ascertain in advance whether Russia’s nuclear weapons are in place were in motion.
“It’s not a likely event. It’s not even possible,” Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear non-proliferation expert and former president of the Plowshares Fund, told CNN’s Newsroom on Tuesday.
“But this is a low probability, high momentum event. If you use even one nuclear weapon, it will take us into a whole new world. It will do massive damage. And you risk an escalation with trades from the West, which could lead to more trades and so on.”
Cirincione stated that even if Putin’s saber-rattling constituted a political threat aimed at scaring the West, it could not be ruled out.
“He has the means. He has the doctrine that allows him to use it. And he has the reason. You are losing this war. He must do something to try and turn the tide of battle in his desperation. It could resort to a nuclear weapon.”
While some have criticized the US President for mentioning words like “Armageddon” and comparing his rhetoric to that of Putin, the motivations of the two men are very different. At least the Russian leader is boasting about nuclear weapons to scare the world. Biden speaks publicly about averting the possibility of catastrophe.
Biden does not rule out meeting Putin
One of the reasons why the war in Ukraine is so dangerous is that, almost eight months later, there is no prospect of a real diplomatic process that could calm it down. Ukrainian forces, using US and allied weapon systems, are making remarkable strides on the battlefield and are determined to repel an unprovoked invasion that has wreaked extensive carnage and destruction. Putin has thrown so much personal prestige and Russian blood into the war that, despite his autocratic control of Russia, he can hardly afford an outcome that he cannot present as a victory.
Biden noted in the Tapper interview that he sees no real reason to meet with Putin when both leaders are expected to be at the G20 summit in Indonesia next month. But he left a door open for the Russian leader, saying he would sit down with Putin if he was willing to discuss the fate of American basketball star Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in prison in August after becoming involved in drug smuggling had pleaded guilty. . The United States says Griner and another American, former Marine Paul Whelan, were wrongly arrested. Washington has offered to trade jailed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for the two Americans.
“Look, I have no intention of meeting him, but look, if he comes to me at the G20 and says, ‘I want to talk about Griner’s release,’ I would meet him, but that depends.” said Biden.
The President also downplayed the idea that there was anything to talk about in general.
“He acted brutally, I believe he committed war crimes, so I see no reason to meet with him now.”