Blinken says the consequences of using a nuclear weapon have been communicated to Putin


Washington
CNN

The consequences of Russia’s use of nuclear weapons in the war against Ukraine have been conveyed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.

“We have informed the Russians, President Putin, directly and very clearly about the consequences,” the top US diplomat said at a Bloomberg event. Blinken did not say how he communicated with Putin or to whom, and senior deputy spokesman Vedant Patel later suggested that US officials had not communicated directly with him.

“You’ve seen members of this administration have direct conversations with their Russian counterparts and they express those concerns and the potentially dire consequences,” which “undoubtedly went to President Putin,” Patel said at a State Department briefing.

Biden administration officials say they have warned Moscow of the possible consequences of using nuclear weapons in war at the highest level, but Blinken’s remarks are the first explicit mention that the message has been conveyed to Putin himself.

Blinken denounced Russia’s latest claim that Ukraine was using a “dirty bomb” as “another invention and the height of recklessness that comes from nuclear power.”

He said the U.S. has communicated directly with the Russians “about trying to use this false accusation as a pretext for any kind of escalation.”

“The reason this particular allegation gives us some concern is because Russia has a track record of projecting, which is accusing others of doing something they’ve done or are thinking about doing,” Blinken said.

Blinken confirmed that the US is following the Kremlin’s nuclear saber-rattling “very cautiously” but that it “sees no reason to change our nuclear posture”.

Despite Putin’s rhetoric, Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Andrey Kelin, told CNN on Wednesday that Russia will not use nuclear weapons in a war against Ukraine.

“Russia will not use nukes. There is no question,” Kelin told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

However, Moscow’s actions in recent weeks – “dirty bomb” allegations, attacks on civilian infrastructure, battlefield defeats and annual military exercises – have raised concerns, a senior administration official said.

This official told CNN that the collapse of parts of the Russian military in Ukraine could be a factor that could cause Putin to resort to the use of nuclear weapons. Therefore, the US is closely following the development in the Kherson region, where it is not easy for Russian soldiers to retreat.

Russia briefed the US on the annual GROM exercise, which includes strategic nuclear forces, the Pentagon said. The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Putin was leading military exercises to practice firing ballistic and cruise missiles.

The official said it might be “alarmist” to cite concerns about the planned exercises, but noted that they cannot be viewed in a silo: they allow the Russians to practice doing things like deploying missiles and flying bombs into the sea. Backed into a corner on the Ukrainian battlefield.

Despite the larger concerns, US officials have seen no evidence of Russian actions that indicate Moscow is preparing to use nuclear weapons.

“We don’t need to see it to change our nuclear stance. We have no indication that Moscow is preparing to use nuclear weapons. But this kind of rhetoric is troubling for many reasons,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday.