President Biden said Thursday that the risk of nuclear “armageddon” is at its highest point since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, a rare admission of the danger his policy of supporting Ukraine in a war on Russia’s border poses.
Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “not joking when he talks about the use of tactical nuclear weapons” and that he can’t imagine the use of a tactical nuclear weapon not leading to “armageddon.”
Tactical nuclear weapons have smaller nuclear yields than strategic nuclear weapons, but many are comparable to the bombs that the US dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “I don’t there is any such a thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon,” Biden said at a fundraiser in New York City.
“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” he added, referring to President John F. Kennedy.
Kennedy defused the Cuban Missile Crisis by negotiating with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and cutting a secret deal to remove US Jupiter nuclear-armed missiles from Turkey. Kennedy also gave assurances that he wouldn’t invade Cuba, and in exchange, the Soviets removed their missiles.
At this point, there’s no indication that Biden and Putin have been holding any negotiations, but back-channel talks are always possible. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the US has shown no interest in diplomacy and virtually cut off all high-level public talks.