Warning of nuclear escalation: Biden invokes "Armageddon" and counts on Russia to get the message

The United States takes the threats seriously.

Warning of nuclear escalation: Biden invokes "Armageddon" and counts on Russia to get the message

The United States takes the threats seriously. Your Secretary of Defense has made that clear, as has the National Security Advisor, and now the President himself—in unusually drastic terms.

"We haven't faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis," Joe Biden said in New York on Thursday. He knows Russian President Vladimir Putin quite well, Biden said. "He doesn't joke when he talks about the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons" because the Russian military is weakening in its campaign against Ukraine.

The background to this is Putin's repeated warnings that he intends to use "all available means" in the war against Ukraine if Russia's "territorial integrity" is threatened. Putin's threats came shortly before the illegal annexation of further Ukrainian territories, which according to Russian law has now been completed. In the West, his words were read as the clearest threat yet to use nuclear weapons.

The fact that President Biden is now talking about a possible "Armageddon" and drawing a comparison to the Cuban Missile Crisis during the Cold War is new and quite remarkable in this clarity, but follows the previous strategy of the USA of vague and unmistakable signals to Moscow about a nuclear escalation impede.

"Directly, privately and at a very high level," the White House told the Kremlin "that any use of nuclear weapons will have catastrophic consequences for Russia," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told US broadcaster NBC News after Putin announced a possible deployment of nuclear weapons brought into play. "And we have said clearly what that will entail." Of course, the Americans are not publicly revealing their plans.

The USA obviously does not want to heat up the situation any further, on the one hand, but on the other hand they want to counter the Russian threatening gestures with the unmistakable warning that they will react in an emergency - entirely in line with the policy of deterrence.

President Biden had already warned of a far-reaching reaction from the USA without wanting to go into detail. "I'm not going to tell you," he said in an interview with CBS News, adding that the reaction would be "consequential." Just this much: Russia is becoming "more of an outcast in the world" than it has ever been.

Against this background, it should not be a coincidence that Biden has now drawn a comparison to the Cuban Missile Crisis. At that time, the Cold War came to a head dramatically. The Soviet Union stationed medium-range missiles on the island in October 1962, and the two superpowers headed for a nuclear exchange. Eventually, the two-week conflict was resolved through negotiations. Not least because the then US President John F. Kennedy always maintained contact with Moscow via confidential channels and was careful to avoid an unwanted escalation. Biden also seems to be following this approach.

The US takes "nuclear saber-rattling" seriously and remains vigilant, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told CNN, warning his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu against "going down that route and committing this type of irresponsible behavior." At the same time, Austin emphasized that he had no evidence that Putin intended to use nuclear weapons. In doing so, the US government is likely to have attempted to address corresponding fears and calm the situation.

Nevertheless, in view of the recent setbacks for Russia, which put Putin under increasing (successful) pressure and could lead to a further escalation, the question arises as to how the West could react to a possible use of nuclear weapons.

Former CIA director and retired four-star general David Petraeus, 69, was the first high-ranking ex-US official to comment publicly on a possible reaction on Sunday. According to this, the US and NATO allies could "take out every Russian conventional force that we see and identify on the battlefield [in Ukraine]," Petraeus told ABC News. The same applies to the troops in Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014. The Russian Black Sea Fleet could also be wiped out.

However, this is his private "hypothesis", stressed Petraeus, and not considerations in the White House. It is not only there that several scenarios have been played out and emergency plans developed in order to be able to react quickly in an emergency since the beginning of the war, reported CNN and the "New York Times".

However, analysts inside and outside the government doubted that Putin could actually seek nuclear escalation. Alone: ​​The use of nuclear weapons would probably be inappropriate to advance his war goals (read more about this here).

And so the public warnings that a nuclear strike would have catastrophic consequences for Russia remain. So far with success.

Russia's accumulated gains in Ukraine since February are crumbling away by the day, even though Putin tried to cement them with his indirect nuclear threats. If a counter-offensive in the areas annexed by force represents a red line for Moscow, then the Ukrainian army crossed it days ago. "Armageddon" did not happen.

Quellen:  "The Guardian", "Politico", CNN, NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, "New York Times"