Vladimir Putin half-word threatens to use nuclear weapons: Joe Biden chooses to ignore

President Joe Biden announcing a massive budget extension for Ukraine, Thursday April 28, 2022 at the White House. (© AFP / Jim WATSON)

By mobilizing 40 countries and providing a budget of 33 billion for Ukraine, in the conflict which opposes it to Russia, Washington chooses to ignore Vladimir Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons and confronts Moscow in a less and less veiled, apparently not afraid to push the Russian president into a corner.

The day after a meeting organized by Washington in Ramstein, Germany, to organize the support of some forty countries for Ukraine, Mr. Putin promised on Wednesday a “rapid and lightning” response in the event of external intervention in the dispute.

The Russian president mentioned “those tools that no one else can brag about now”, a thinly veiled allusion to the tactical nuclear weapon, which Russian military doctrine provides for the use of to force an adversary to retreat.

Far from backing down, Joe Biden replied the next day by asking Congress for a colossal budget extension of 33 billion dollars, of which 20 billion must go to the supply of armaments, i.e. nearly seven times more than the impressive quantities of arms and ammunition already supplied to Ukraine since the Russian invasion, launched on February 24.

The US administration now delivers heavy armament in kyiv, such as artillery, helicopters and drones, after having long hesitated to do so for fear of spreading the conflict to other NATO countries.

The nuclear threat brushed aside

That concern seems to have faded away in Washington, where Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday set his sights on “seeing Russia weakened to such a degree that it cannot do the same kinds of things as the invasion of Ukraine”, after returning from a visit to kyiv.

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Within the US government, the nuclear threat from Russia has now been brushed aside.

Joe Biden thus lambasted Vladimir Putin’s “irresponsible” threats on Thursday and judged that they showed “the feeling of despair felt by Russia, faced with its miserable failure with regard to its initial objectives”.

And on Friday, a senior Pentagon official said that Washington “does not believe there is a risk of the use of nuclear weapons or that NATO territory is threatened”.

Russian threats taken “less seriously”

For Lawrence Freedman, professor emeritus at King’s College London, the various threats from Russia “are taken less seriously than before”. “It’s already a diminished power,” he adds on his blog.

Conclusions shared by Gideon Rose, of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “Moscow will not use nuclear weapons during the conflict,” he said in the journal Foreign Affairs.

Vladimir Putin knows that extraordinary reprisals and universal opprobrium would follow, without any strategic advantage being able to justify them, not to mention that the radioactive effects that this would cause could easily fall on Russia.

Gideon RoseCouncil on Foreign Relations à New York

Even though Mr. Biden claims that the United States is “not attacking Russia”, Washington has just accelerated deliveries of military equipment to Ukraine, and is now openly training Ukrainian soldiers in heavy weapons Americans, after having done so discreetly.

The conflict therefore takes on all the appearances of a “proxy war” against Moscow, through the intermediary of the Ukrainians, notes Sam Winter-Levy, of Princeton University, on the specialized blog War on the Rocks.

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This kind of proxy war, such as the one between Saudi Arabia and Iran through the Houthi rebels in Yemen, “is the worst possible outcome” because it presents a risk of escalation and this kind of war generally lasts a long time, estimates this expert who also collaborates with the American military academy of West Point.

But “it may be the best possible option”, because Westerners “have no choice”, he adds. “At the end of the day, the only options worse than a proxy war are a cheap Russian victory in Ukraine, or a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia.”

Source : © 2022 AFP

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