A senior Pentagon official told reporters on Friday that the US does not believe there is a threat of Russia using nuclear weapons.
“We continue to monitor their nuclear capabilities every day the best we can and we do not assess that there is a threat of the use of nuclear weapons and no threat to NATO territory,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that NATO was engaged in a proxy against Russia by pouring weapons into Ukraine and warned of the danger of nuclear war. “The danger is serious, real, and we must not underestimate it,” he said.
While Lavrov’s warning was focused on the danger of the US and NATO pouring weapons into Ukraine, US officials took it as a threat. “Rattling of sabers and dangerous rhetoric is clearly unhelpful and something that we won’t engage in,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in response.
“Any bluster about the possible use of nuclear weapons is dangerous and unhelpful,” Austin said. “Nobody wants to see a nuclear war, and nobody can win that.”
It’s widely believed that a direct conflict between the US and Russia would quickly turn nuclear, but hawks in Washington don’t appear to be factoring in the risk while pushing for more US intervention in Ukraine.