Defense Secretary Condemns ‘Nuclear Saber’ But Says He Doesn’t Believe Putin Has Decided To Use Nuclear Weapons

The full interview with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will be broadcast Sunday at 10:00 am on “Fareed Zakaria GPS”.


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin condemned the “nuclear saber” in a new interview, saying he has seen nothing to suggest Vladimir Putin has decided to use nuclear weapons in a war against Ukraine, a choice that rests with the Russians. The President

“To be clear, the guy who makes that decision, I mean, it’s one man,” Austin said about Russian nuclear weapons threats in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that aired all Sunday on “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”

“There is no control over Mr. Putin. Just like he made the reckless decision to invade Ukraine, you know, he could make another decision. But at the moment I don’t see anything that would lead me to believe that he has made such a decision.’

Austin privately told Zakaria to tell his Russian counterpart, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, “not to go down this road and do this kind of recklessness.” Austin said he had not spoken to Shoigo “in the last few days” but said other members of the US government leadership had conveyed similar messages to Russia “recently”.

“You’ve heard from people who have said that we’ve communicated to them recently among our – our leadership – our management,” Austin said. “Personally, I have not spoken to Shoigu in the last few days, but I have spoken to him in the past. And I have addressed this matter to him and warned him not to do this kind of carelessness in that way.”

As CNN previously reported, the U.S. has privately advised Russia in recent months that there will be consequences if Moscow chooses to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war, according to U.S. officials. It was not immediately clear how or when the warnings were sent. The State Department was involved, according to an official.

Austin said Putin’s annexations of Ukrainian territory were “illegal” and called threats to use nuclear weapons “reckless.”

“This nuclear saber rattling is not something we would expect to hear from the leaders of major countries that have the capability,” Austin said.

Putin announced on Friday that Russia would seize almost a fifth of Ukraine, declaring that millions of people living there would become Russian citizens “forever” after so-called referendums that Ukraine and Western countries have universally dismissed as fraudulent.

US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the annexation and announced new sanctions against Russia in response.

Austin said the United States will continue to support Ukraine in its efforts to regain territory seized by Russia.

“We hope that the Ukrainians will continue to advance and try to recover all their internal territory,” he said. “We will continue to support their efforts.”