President Joe Biden warned a committee on Thursday night that the United States is closer than ever to “Armageddon” since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Rather than address the American public in a televised brief, Biden made his comment in a private setting to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at a fundraiser in New York, which was reported on by members of the press in attendance.
“[Putin was] not joking when he talks about the use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons,” Biden said. “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Although the Kremlin has made no mention of any use of biological or chemical weapons on its part, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently stated that he would be prepared to unleash tactical nuclear weapons if Russia’s territorial integrity comes under threat, referring to NATO’s increasingly aggressive stance in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for separate components and more modern than those of NATO countries, and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said in an address in late September.
Following Putin’s remarks, the White House said that the Biden administration has opened the lines of communication with its Russian counterparts over the potential escalation to a nuclear conflict.
White House officials who spoke to Fox News did not disclose what the Biden administration's response would look like in the event that Russia deploys tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, only hinting that the results would be “catastrophic.”
“I don’t think there is any such a thing as the ability to easily use a tactical weapon and not end up with Armageddon,” Biden told the audience.
On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on NATO to perform “preemptive strikes” on Russia to prevent their use of nuclear weapons in remarks that were widely seen as a dangerous escalation of the conflict.
Zelensky’s spokesperson on Friday has since walked back the president’s remarks, clarifying to the press that Zelensky was only referring to sanctions and not nuclear weapons, the Kyiv Independent reported.