The White House believes the “stakes are very high right now” with Russia amid Vladimir Putin’s struggles in Ukraine and his references to his nuclear arsenal, but President Joe Biden’s warning of possible “Armageddon” was not about an imminent threat, a top Biden . the spokesman said on Sunday.
“These comments were not based on new or fresh intelligence or new indications that Mr. Putin has made a decision to use nuclear weapons, and frankly we have no indication that he has made that kind of decision,” John Kirby, a White House National Security Council spokesman told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
“Nor have we seen anything that would give us pause to reconsider our own strategic nuclear posture in our efforts to defend our own national security interests and the interests of our allies and partners,” Kirby said, referring to the president’s pledge that ” neither we nor our allies will be intimidated by this.”
Kirby’s comments come after Biden’s unusually sharp remarks at a fundraiser on Thursday.
Biden said at the time that Putin, the Russian president, “was not joking when he talks about the use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons” and that “we have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis ” in the 1960’s.
The White House was pressed repeatedly last week on whether Biden’s warning marked some shift in the administration’s assessment of Putin’s behavior, which Kirby denied on “This Week.”
“We’re monitoring this as best we can, and we’ve been monitoring his nuclear capability, frankly, since he invaded Ukraine back in February,” Kirby said.
Raddatz asked what the US saw as Putin’s “way out” of this war, where his forces have lost ground in recent weeks in Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions. On Saturday, an explosion also partially collapsed a bridge that served as a crucial supply link from Russia to Crimea, the disputed peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
“Mr. Putin started this war, and Mr. Putin could end it today simply by moving his troops out of the country,” Kirby said, adding, “We all want to see this war end … And what will happen. is for the two sides to be able to sit down and negotiate and find a way out of this peacefully and diplomatically.”
But so far, “Mr. Putin has shown no indication — zero, none — that he’s willing to do that,” Kirby said. And so, he said, the administration remained committed to indirect involvement in the war by supporting Ukraine via arms and other military assistance.
On the Ukrainian side, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has ruled out negotiating specifically with Putin — not Russia — and signed a decree formalizing that position on Tuesday.
Raddatz also pressed Kirby on the White House’s approach to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who fired a barrage of ballistic missiles in recent days, including over Japan, raising alarms there and in South Korea.
“I’ve seen this for decades and decades, the same thing happens through many presidents: You react, you do drills, he keeps shooting,” Raddatz said.
“What do you do differently?” she pressed.
Kirby pointed to intelligence gathering and “military preparedness” between the United States, Japan and South Korea: “We want to make sure we have the capability in place to defend our national security interests if it comes to that.”
But direct talks with Kim’s regime remained the goal, he said: “We want to see a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, verifiable and complete … We are willing to sit down with them without preconditions at the negotiating table to work towards that Goal. .”