It is terrifying to learn that an American president, as Joe Biden did on Thursday, is openly discussing the potential for nuclear “Armageddon.”
It also serves as a commentary on the grave uncertainty surrounding how self-styled strongman and Russian President Vladimir Putin would respond to the growing likelihood that his country will lose the conflict in Ukraine, in which he has staked his political future.
Given that he made the comments at a political fundraiser in New York, Biden may face criticism from his rivals for using crude language to discuss the possibility of nuclear war. Contrarily, they are also a bit reassuring since they show that the president is acutely aware of the dangers of escalation with the explosive Kremlin leader.
Whether or not his remarks were intended for public consumption, they will have the effect of sending Putin a message that the use of nuclear weapons, even a modest battlefield bomb, may set off a chain of events that could result in a catastrophe for the entire world. In other words, since Putin indicated that he was not lying about his threat to potentially use a nuclear weapon, Biden may be reasserting a level of deterrence.
But Biden’s remarks also demonstrate that, at least in one respect, Putin’s nuclear threats have succeeded in making his enemies unclear of how he will act.
The globe had reached a dangerous point, Biden told Democratic fundraisers.
If things proceed as they are, we face a direct threat of using a nuclear bomb for the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, according to Biden.
In Putin, Biden added, “We’ve got a man I know very well.”
“His military is, you might say, considerably underperforming, so he’s not joking when he talks about probable use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons.”
In a last-ditch effort to change the outcome of the war, US officials are worried that Putin may consider using a smaller tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. Although there is speculation NATO would get involved and directly strike Russian soldiers, a situation that might cause a serious escalation with Moscow, the White House claims it has warned the Kremlin that such a choice would be “catastrophic” for Russia.
However, US officials have also stated that they have not seen any indications that Russia is preparing any of its tactical nuclear weapons, which can range in size from tiny enough to attack army formations to large enough to completely destroy cities. Biden was speaking “frankly” in response to Putin’s “irresponsible and reckless” rhetoric, a US official said to CNN’s Jeremy Diamond on Friday, but his remarks were not supported by any fresh knowledge of Russia’s nuclear posture. The official stated that the US nuclear posture has not changed either.
Bulden of Biden
The weight that Biden now bears as the first president since the conclusion of the Cold War more than 30 years ago who must confront the terrifying possibility of nuclear war with Moscow is highlighted by his remarks on Thursday. History reveals that during the protracted stalemate between the US and the Soviet Union, Armageddon might have been accidently sparked at least once. However, the only time that Washington and Moscow came dangerously close to using nuclear weapons on purpose was during the tense 13-day standoff in October 1962, which took place over Russian plans to install nuclear missiles in Cuba. After prolonged communication between Washington and Moscow, Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of Russia, eventually changed his position.
Even though a press pool is normally permitted in for some remarks at political fundraising events, which are typically not on camera, presidents are frequently less cautious there. Therefore, it’s probable that the President’s remarks, which are his most direct on the nuclear issue since the start of the war in Ukraine, didn’t take place in a more formal context like a news conference. Additionally, the White House has regularly walked back spontaneous remarks made by the president regarding foreign policy, particularly in regards to how the US would react if China invaded Taiwan.
However, Biden’s comments do seem to provide a glimpse into his thought process as he plans how to resolve this situation. When President John F. Kennedy played nuclear poker in 1962, he appeared to be debating the same issues of escalation and avoiding a point of no return.
Biden remarked, “I’m trying to figure out what Putin’s off ramp is. Where does he locate an exit? Where does he find himself that he not only loses face but also a sizable amount of authority within Russia? said Biden.
The President might have been recalling Kennedy’s 1963 commencement speech at American University in Washington, where he discussed the dangers of nuclear weapons and the lessons to be learned from the Cuban missile crisis.
Kennedy stated that nuclear states “must above all, while defending our own critical interests, avert such confrontations which drive an opponent to a decision of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.”
A communal wish for the end of the world or the failure of our strategy would be demonstrated by the adoption of that route in the nuclear age.
Even though Putin has painted the war in Ukraine as a battle with the West, Biden has been meticulous in attempting to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia over the country. However, the biggest strategic risk right now is that Russian failures are pushing Putin into precisely the situation Kennedy foresaw, leaving him with the option of choosing between nuclear war or public humiliation.
no exit ramps
The fact that there is no chance for a diplomatic procedure to end the war complicates the problem. After being subjected to an unjustified invasion that resulted in human slaughter, Ukraine is in no position to speak, especially since it now appears that Russian troops are fleeing the country. Despite the possibility that he may manipulate the Russian media to portray a defeat as a victory, Putin cannot afford for the conflict to have any ending that does not look like a complete victory.
During a trip to Peru on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the lack of diplomatic off-ramps.
“The reality is that President Putin and Russia have exhibited a complete lack of interest in engaging in any sort of substantive diplomacy. It’s very difficult to pursue it until they do, Blinken added.
“We have consistently insisted that this will be resolved diplomatically in the end, as has President (Volodymyr) Zelensky.And if and when Russia demonstrates that it is serious about engaging in such diplomacy, we will be prepared and present. Unfortunately, all current indications, however, point in the opposite direction.
There will be growing fear about Putin using his nuclear arsenal to attempt to change the equation as the battle continues and Ukraine’s forces have more success. There is genuine anxiety in Western countries about Putin’s mental health, despite the fact that some strategists believe he is either bluffing or that there are no actual strategic benefits to breaking the nuclear taboo – an action that would further isolate Russia in the world. His tactical judgments and presumptions in Ukraine have all backfired, and none of them exhibit the kind of strategic care and lucidity that are essential when deciding whether to use nuclear weapons.
In light of this, Biden seems to be arguing—and Putin will no doubt hear about it now—that it is erroneous to believe that the use of a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine could be limited and prevent a larger conflict.
The entire strategic justification for keeping nuclear weapons on hand for self-defense is that they are too horrible to use, and any country that did so would be signing its own death sentence.
The President has now made it quite plain to the leader of Russia that any attempt to exceed the nuclear threshold might result in an escalation that would trigger a catastrophic nuclear war.
At the fundraiser, Biden stated, “I don’t think there’s any such thing as the capacity to easily (use) a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.