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Biden slams Putin’s nuclear threat as ‘reckless’ act of desperation over defeats in Ukraine war

The i 21/09/2022 Taz Ali
US President Joe Biden addresses the UN General Assembly in New York, where he slams Russian President Vladimir Putin over the 'brutal, needless' conflict in Ukraine (Photo: Timothy Clary/AFP via Getty Images) © Provided by The i US President Joe Biden addresses the UN General Assembly in New York, where he slams Russian President Vladimir Putin over the 'brutal, needless' conflict in Ukraine (Photo: Timothy Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

Western leaders have condemned but also dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat of nuclear warfare, calling it a “reckless” act of desperation in the face of Russia’s looming defeat in Ukraine.

In the biggest escalation of the war in Ukraine since the start of the invasion, Mr Putin warned the West that he was not bluffing when he said he would use everything at his disposal to protect Russia, in an apparent reference to his nuclear arsenal.

US President Joe Biden said Russia’s “brutal, needless war” in Ukraine has “shamelessly violated the core tenets” of the UN charter, which is intended to maintain international peace and security.

Delivering a forceful condemnation of Russia’s invasion at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, Mr Biden said on Wednesday that Russia’s new nuclear threats showed “reckless disregard” for the nation’s responsibilities as a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

“We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression,” he said.

“A nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought,” Mr Biden added, as he accused Russia of “making irresponsible nuclear threats”.

The US President continued: “This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple.

“Whatever you believe that should make your blood run cold.”

His remarks came after Mr Putin delivered a rare televised address to the nation on Wednesday morning, the first since 24 February.

Mr Putin said, with no evidence, that officials in Nato states had threatened to use nuclear weapons against Russia, and that his country “also has various means of destruction”.

“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people – this is not a bluff,” Mr Putin said during a seven-minute speech.

He also signed a decree on partially mobilising Russia’s reserves, arguing that his military was effectively facing the full force of the “collective West” that is sending weapons to Ukraine.

Speaking on Mr Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons, Nato’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it was “dangerous and reckless rhetoric”.

He said Mr Putin’s moves demonstrated “that the war is not going according to his plans” and it was clear that the Russian president had made “a big miscalculation”.

This sentiment was shared by US national security council spokesperson John Kirby, who told ABC’s Good Morning America that Mr Putin’s speech was “definitely a sign that he’s struggling, and we know that”.

Similarly, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Mr Putin’s actions were “an admission that his invasion is failing” and “Russia is becoming a global pariah”.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky seemed unperturbed by Mr Putin’s nuclear threats, telling Germany’s Bild TV in an interview that he did not believe the world would allow Russia to use atomic weapons.

He said the threats amounted to blackmail. “Tomorrow Putin can say: apart from Ukraine, we also want a part of Poland, otherwise we will use nuclear weapons. We cannot make these compromises,” he said.

Mr Zelensky said Russia’s partial mobilisation was in response to the humiliating setbacks its military has suffered in Ukraine.

Kyiv’s forces have recaptured swathes of its territory after a lightning counter-offensive in recent weeks, inflicting mounting casualties on Russian troops.

“He (Mr Putin) sees that his units are simply running away,” Mr Zelensky said, adding that the Russian leader “wants to drown Ukraine in blood, including the blood of his own soldiers”.

Speaking shortly after Mr Putin’s speech, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu clarified that Russia would draft 300,000 additional personnel out of some 25 million potential fighters at Moscow’s disposal.

The mobilisation, the first since the Soviet Union battled Nazi Germany in the Second World War, begins immediately.

There has been some confusion within Russia about how this will take place, according to independent Russian news site Meduza, based in Latvia.

Sources close to the Kremlin told Meduza that governors of several regions in Russia will be primarily responsible for the course of the mobilization, and that they will be told by the country’s defence ministry the approximate number of people who should go to war in Ukraine.

“So far, no one understands how or who this (mobilization process) will affect,” one source said.

“No one is happy, of course, but that’s (our) job: when we get the numbers, the process will begin.”

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