On Thursday, President Joe Biden suggested that the risk of nuclear “armageddon” is the highest it’s been since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Per NBC News, Biden cautioned that it’s the first there has been “direct threat” of nuclear warfare in 60 years following Vladimir Putin’s threats amid military retreats in Ukraine. “We have not faced the prospect of armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” he said.
In a televised national address last month, Putin said that Russia would “certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.” He added that he’s “not bluffing,” with the comments arriving not long after he announced the increased mobilization of Russian troops after continued setbacks in the military invasion of Ukraine. As of 2022, Russia is estimated to possess the largest stockpile of nuclear warheads in the world.
"We’ve got a guy I know fairly well. 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," said Biden on Thursday. "I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily [use] a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon. ... 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?"
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday that the “world will never forgive” Putin and Russia if nuclear weapons are deployed. “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," he said.
On Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden’s latest remarks were not based on any new intelligence, but a reinforcement of the administration’s response to Putin’s continued threats. "We take these threats about nuclear weapons as we have done when the Russians have made these threats throughout the conflict," said Jean-Pierre, per The Guardian. "So 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.”