Oct 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Kirby: Biden’s Armageddon comment doesn’t reflect U.S. intel, but stakes of war

President Biden's warning last week that Russia's war in Ukraine marks the highest risk nuclear "Armageddon" since the Cuban missile crisis was a reflection of the war's high stakes and not new intelligence the U.S. has received, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

Driving the news: Kremlin officials have hinted at Russia's willingness to use nuclear weapons to defend their newly-annexed territories of Ukraine.

  • Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, recently advocated for Russia's use of "more drastic measures," including the use of low-yield nuclear weapons.
  • "First time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have a direct threat of the use nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path they are going," Biden said Thursday at a fundraiser.

What they're saying: "[President Biden's] comments were not based on new or fresh intelligence or new indications that Mr. Putin has made a decision to use nuclear weapons and, quite frankly, we don't have any indication that he has made that kind of decision," Kirby said Sunday.

  • "Nor have we seen anything that would give us pause to reconsider our own strategic nuclear posture, in our efforts to defend our own national security interests or those of our allies and partners," he added.
  • "What the president was reflecting was that the stakes are high right now, given what is going on on the battlefield in Ukraine and given the very irresponsible and reckless comments made by Vladimir Putin in just the last few days."
  • "We are monitoring this as best we can, and we have been monitoring his nuclear capabilities, frankly, since he invaded Ukraine again back in February."

The big picture: Kirby's comments reflect reassurances issued earlier by the White House.

  • At a press briefing Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Biden's comments were not a result of any new intelligence the U.S. had received about Russia and nuclear weapons.
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