In a speech on Thursday night, President Joe Biden warned that recent threats from Russian president Vladimir Putin could devolve into a nuclear conflict. “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Biden confirmed, speaking at a Democratic fundraiser event in New York.
“We’ve got a guy I know fairly well,” Biden said. “He’s not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming.”
He added, ““First time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have the threat of a nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path they are going. We are trying to figure out: What is Putin’s off-ramp? Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself where he does not only lose face but significant power?”
Biden’s statements follow recent threats from Putin in response to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, where Russia has suffered steep losses. In September, in a rare speech, Putin announced the “partial mobilization” of Russian citizens and accused the West of interfering in the territorial integrity of Russia. The address made clear reference to nuclear weapons, with Putin issuing a threat to opposing nations.
“Nuclear blackmail has also been used. We are talking not only about the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant — encouraged by the West — which threatens to cause a nuclear catastrophe, but also about statements from senior representatives of NATO countries about the possibility and permissibility of using weapons of mass destruction against Russia: nuclear weapons,” he said. “I would like to remind those who make such statements about Russia that our country also possesses various means of destruction, and in some cases they are more modern than those of NATO countries.”
He added, “When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we, of course, will use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.”
Putin continued, “This is not a bluff. The citizens of Russia can be sure that the territorial integrity of our homeland, our independence and freedom will be ensured, I will emphasize this again, with all the means at our disposal. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction.”
On Thursday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Putin understood that the “world will never forgive” a Russian nuclear strike. “He understands that after the use of nuclear weapons he would be unable any more to preserve, so to speak, his life, and I’m confident of that,” Zelenskiy affirmed.