It was not immediately clear how or when the warnings were sent. The State Department was involved, according to an official. The Biden administration has also relied heavily on intelligence channels to communicate sensitive messages to Moscow during the build-up to and prosecution of Russia’s war in Ukraine, including recently in negotiations over wrongfully detained Americans.
US officials have emphasized that this is not the first time that Putin has threatened to resort to nuclear weapons since the beginning of his invasion of Ukraine in February, although some analysts have seen this threat as more specific and escalating than the president’s previous rhetoric. Russian.
The United States has also tried to dissuade Russia from using a nuclear weapon in public warnings in the past and has made the issue a topic for comment at the UN General Assembly this week in New York. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that Russia’s “reckless nuclear threats must cease immediately.”
US President Joe Biden, in an appearance on CBS’s “60 Minutes” last week, said his message to Putin should he consider using nuclear weapons was: “No. No. No.” .
The US reaction would be “consistent” but would depend “on the scope of what they do,” Biden said, without elaborating.
For now, top CIA officials have said publicly that they have seen no signs that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons. But some military analysts have been concerned that Russia may try to use a tactical, or battlefield, nuclear weapon in response to its poor performance in Ukraine, a tactic sometimes called “escalation to de-escalation.” Intelligence officials believe that Putin would likely only resort to that option if he felt that Russia or his regime was in existential danger, and it is unclear whether he would feel that losing his war in Ukraine would fit that description.