The Biden administration said Wednesday that it has seen no indication that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine after a media report claimed Russian officials were discussing the matter.
“We continue to monitor this as best we can, and we see no indications that Russia is making preparations for such use,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Citing unnamed US officials, The New York Times reported that senior Russian officials recently discussed when and how to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine. The report isn’t confirmed, and Kirby declined to comment on the specifics.
Responding to the report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Western media is “deliberately pumping up the topic of the use of nuclear weapons.” He said the Times report was “very irresponsible.”
If the report is true, it is typical of officials in nuclear-armed states to discuss the potential use of the weapons and even rehearse dropping them as both NATO and Russia recently concluded nuclear war games.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that he has no plans to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. “We see no need for that,” he said. “There is no point in that, neither political, nor military.”
Putin had previously warned that Russia could use all the weapons at its disposal to defend its “territorial integrity,” and other Russian officials made clear that included nuclear weapons and applied to the territories Moscow recently annexed in Ukraine.
Russian officials insist that Putin’s warning fell within Moscow’s military doctrine, which says it can use nuclear weapons in the face of an existential threat. But the warning was significant since Russia has annexed the territory it controls in Ukraine, meaning it considers Kyiv’s counteroffensives as attacks on Russian territory.
Kirby said that the US was still “concerned” with the risk of Russia using a nuclear weapon. “We have grown increasingly concerned about the potential as these months have gone on,” he said.
The US concern has not led to a push for diplomacy. Russian officials have repeatedly been stating that they’re open to negotiations. But Ukraine says its goal is to drive Russia out of all the territory it controls, including Crimea, and the US has ruled out pushing Kyiv to pursue talks with Moscow.