'Don't use nukes,' Biden warns Putin on Ukraine

Such action would "change the face of war unlike anything since World War Two," Biden warned

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Saturday, September 17, 2022, 02:36 PM IST
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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and US President Joe Biden | File

Speaking in an interview to US news channel CBS News, US President Joe Biden warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin not to contemplate resorting to the use of so-called 'tactical' nuclear weapons in his war against Ukraine -- a war that is currently going badly for Russia.

In an interview for this Sunday's "60 Minutes," journalist Scott Pelley spoke with President Biden about Ukraine's recent battlefield success — and the dangers that could bring.

"As Ukraine succeeds on the battlefield, Vladimir Putin is becoming embarrassed and pushed into a corner," Pelley said to President Biden. "And I wonder, Mr. President, what you would say to him if he is considering using chemical or tactical nuclear weapons."

"Don't. Don't. Don't," was Biden's grim response.

Such action would "change the face of war unlike anything since World War Two," Biden warned.

What are 'tactical' nuclear weapons?

So-called "tactical" nuclear weapons are those which can be used at relatively short distances, as opposed to "strategic" nuclear weapons which can be launched over much longer distances and raise the spectre of all-out nuclear war.

However, most arms-control experts agree that this is a merely superficial difference, and there are truly no such things as "tactical" nuclear weapons: Any use of nuclear weapons in anger, against any kind of target, will immediately produce strategic effects.

Nuclear blackmail

Ever since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, President Putin and his subordinates have made constant nuclear threats against the West.

For instance, when announcing the special military operation in Ukraine, Putin threatened “consequences you have never seen” to countries that interfere.

More recently, Russian TV aired a warning that Russian nuclear missiles could strike the U.S. or UK.

The commander of US Strategic Command, Admiral Charles Richard, labeled this behavior as both “implicit and explicit nuclear coercion.”

And it seems to be working.

Shortly after Putin issued his first round of nuclear threats, the Biden administration postponed a routine, scheduled test of the Minuteman III long-range missile seeking to avoid raising further tensions with Russia.

The administration has also restricted the Ukrainian military from using weaponry like the US-made and supplied HIMARS system to strike into Russian territory, even if doing so would help the Ukrainian war effort. Again, the reason was to avoid provoking Russia.

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