The US Defense Department does not believe that a Russian nuclear strike is imminent, several Pentagon officials told journalists this week. However Washington still treats Moscow’s supposed threats “very seriously,” they added.
“We don’t assess that President Putin has made a decision to use nuclear weapons at this time,” the Pentagon’s press secretary, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, told journalists at a briefing on Thursday. He spoke after US President Joe Biden warned that the risk of a nuclear conflict is at the highest level since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
For now, the US does not possess any information that would warrant a change in its “strategic deterrence posture,” Ryder said, adding that Washington will continue to closely monitor the situation, as it takes Russia’s threats “very seriously.”
On Friday, another Pentagon spokesman, J. Todd Breasseale, told Politico that the US still does not see any indication that Russia is preparing for a nuclear strike. “To be clear: we have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture nor do we have indications that Russia is preparing to imminently use nuclear weapons,” he said.
Breasseale also accused the Kremlin of making reckless statements about the potential use of nuclear weapons. “The kind of irresponsible rhetoric we have seen is no way for the leader of a nuclear armed state to speak,” he said, warning that a nuclear strike “on any scale” would be “disastrous for the world and would entail severe consequences.”
Although Moscow has shown no signs that it intends to use nuclear weapons, President Vladimir Putin said in a recent speech that Russia has “various means of destruction,” and that he would not hesitate to use them to defend the nation, adding: “This is not a bluff.”
On Thursday, Biden warned that further escalation of hostilities between Russia, Ukraine, and the West could lead to “Armageddon.”
On Friday, the Estonian military stated that the threat of Russia using nuclear weapons “is not very large.” The statement came amid UK media reports hinting that Russia plans to conduct drills of its nuclear forces – which the Kremlin has dismissed.
Russia’s current doctrine allows for the use of nuclear weapons in the event of an initial nuclear strike on its territory or infrastructure, or if the existence of the Russian state is threatened by either nuclear or conventional weapons.