President Joe Biden declared after the Russians invaded Ukraine the U.S. would not get militarily involved, to avoid nuclear war. He changed his tune after hearing a troubling warning from the Russian president Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin provided a warning to Ukraine that made world leaders pause after earlier applauding initial success of a Ukrainian counterattack.
“The Kyiv authorities have announced that they have started an active counter-offensive operation,” Putin said. “We’ll see how it goes and how it ends”
Putin claimed his country has exhibited considerable self-restraint in response to Ukrainian military attacks. He noted his armed forces recently inflicted a few sensitive blows, a reference to destroying Kharkiv water and power facilities.
“Let’s say that they were a warning,” the head of the Russian Federation remarked. “If the situation continues to develop like this, then the response will be more serious.”
Only Russia’s professional army is currently fighting, Putin noted, reminding the world he has considerable military reserves that could be mobilized.
Military analysts state Putin holds two big aces up his sleeve. He could mobilize his military, which would allow him to draft millions of Russian citizens to deploy in Ukraine. Or, he could lob a few tactical nuclear weapons at Ukrainian cities. A tactical weapon is designed to destroy populations while leaving infrastructure relatively unharmed.
Early in the conflict, Putin rattled the world by announcing he placed his nuclear force on high alert. If it was intended to deter NATO and the U.S. from putting boots on the ground in Ukraine, it worked.
Russia’s failure to secure the quick victory that everyone — including Ukrainians — expected, has sowed doubt about the bellicose nation’s ability to wage war effectively.
Ukraine’s continued success in withstanding Russia’s attacks seems to have emboldened President Biden.
“Don’t. Don’t. Don’t,” Biden told 60 Minutes in an interview. CBS reporter Scott Pelley had asked Biden what he would say to deter the Russian leader from nuking Ukraine. “You will change the face of war unlike anything since World War II.”
The president declined to specify what consequences he would impose on Russia if they deployed tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine.
“You think I would tell you if I knew exactly what it would be? Of course, I’m not gonna tell you. It’ll be consequential,” Biden testily responded. “They’ll become more of a pariah in the world than they ever have been. And depending on the extent of what they do will determine what response would occur.”
Russia has 6,255 nuclear weapons compared to the 5,550 owned by the U.S., according to the non-governmental International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
It is not clear how many of those are inter-continental ballistic missiles capable of striking across oceans. It is abundantly clear, though, that the total is more than enough to destroy life on the planet should a nuclear war break out.
It would be ironic if the president who campaigned as a unifier and healer started a nuclear war that made the human race extinct.
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