Biden warns Putin not to ‘joke’ about nuclear threat

US President Joe Biden warned that the risk of a nuclear “Armageddon” was at its highest since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and said he was trying to figure out what Vladimir Putin’s “exit ramp” might be to avoid further escalation.

At a fundraiser in New York on Thursday night, Biden said Russia’s president was “not kidding” when he discussed the “possible use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you could say, well below average.”

“We haven’t faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Biden said, adding that “we have a direct threat of using nuclear weapons if things actually continue as they are.”

He said he was trying to understand if there was a way for Putin to back down. “I’m trying to figure out: What is Putin’s exit?” Biden said. “Where does he find a way out?”

Biden’s remarks at the home of media investor James Murdoch reflect growing concerns in Washington and across Europe that Russia may be preparing to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war. In recent weeks, Putin has adopted increasingly stormy rhetoric, escalating the conflict by annexing entire regions of southern and eastern Ukraine, despite suffering significant setbacks in those areas by the Russian military.

Senior US officials have warned Russia of “catastrophic consequences” if Moscow uses nuclear weapons, saying they have privately told Russian officials what they would be. However, the US has not publicly stated how it would respond to Moscow’s use of weapons of mass destruction.

Biden’s reference to finding an “exit” for Putin suggests the US and its allies are still trying to determine whether Russia’s leader could be coaxed into stepping down from the brink — despite insisting that decisions about the future of the Ukraine would have to be taken Kyiv.

https://www.ft.com/content/2f4ab252-8eaa-4328-9c2e-18fad985a65c Biden warns Putin not to ‘joke’ about nuclear threat

Adam Bradshaw

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