The White House has not seen any new intelligence to indicate there is an imminent threat of Russia using nuclear weapons, even as President Biden warned that the rhetoric coming from Moscow put the world at its greatest nuclear risk since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture, nor do we have indications that Russia is preparing to imminently use nuclear weapons,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Jean-Pierre downplayed the severity of Biden’s rhetoric, arguing he was reinforcing the administration’s consistent message that Russia’s threats are irresponsible and should be taken seriously.
“The kind of irresponsible rhetoric we have seen is no way for the leader of a nuclear-armed state to speak, and that’s what the president was making very clear,” Jean-Pierre said.
Biden, who was speaking at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser at the home of James Murdoch, expressed skepticism that there was any way for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia to use a smaller, tactical nuclear weapon without it leading to “armageddon.”
“We have not faced the prospect of armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Biden said at a fundraiser in New York City, citing the 1962 standoff with the Soviet Union.
“We’ve got a guy I know fairly well,” Biden continued, referencing Putin. “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.”
Biden’s comments are some of the starkest yet from U.S. officials about the threat of Russia using a nuclear weapon and dramatically escalating its war in Ukraine.
In a speech last month announcing the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of troops to fight in Ukraine, Putin said Moscow was prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend any of its territory, accusing the U.S. and its allies of “nuclear blackmail” and moving to “destroy” his country.
U.S. officials had previously been generally vague in their response to Russia’s talk of nuclear weaponry, warning that there would be severe consequences if Moscow went that route without publicizing what the response would be.