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Washington dismisses Putin’s nuclear ‘sabre-rattling’

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The United States has seen no sign Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons. Russian President Vladimir Putin has escalated the seven-month long war with a partial mobilisation, the annexation of four regions in Ukraine and warnings of nuclear weapons use. But White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said today (October 4) there is no indication Moscow is preparing to use such weapons.

Ms Jean Pierre said: “We take any nuclear weapons or nuclear saber-rattling very seriously here, but I do want to say that we have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture, nor do we have indication that Russia is preparing to imminently use nuclear weapons.”

The comments came after US President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Washington will provide Kyiv with £545million ($625million) in new security aid, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers.

Mr Biden also emphasised Washington will never recognise Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory.

Putin has repeatedly cautioned the West any attack on Russia will lead to a nuclear response.

The Russian dictator has also warned Western countries he is not bluffing after saying he would be ready to use nuclear weapons to defend his country.

Military analyst Yuri Fyodorov said: “[Putin] is bluffing right now.

“But what will happen in a week or a month from now is difficult to say – when he understands the war is lost.”

Asked if Putin was moving towards a nuclear attack, CIA Director William Burns told CBS: “We have to take very seriously his kind of threats given everything that’s at stake.”

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Mr Burns said US intelligence had no practical evidence Putin was moving towards using tactical nuclear weapons imminently.

According to its nuclear doctrine, a nuclear strike is permitted after aggression against Russia with conventional weapons gets to the point where the existence of the state is threatened.

Russia is the world’s biggest nuclear power based on the number of nuclear warheads. It has 5,977 warheads while the US has 5,428, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

Moscow has 1,458 strategic nuclear warheads deployed – or ready to fire – while the United States has 1,389 deployed, according to the latest publicly declared data.

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These warheads are on intercontinental ballistic missiles, ballistic missiles on submarines and strategic bombers.

Not one Russian official has called for an attack using a strategic nuclear weapon, which were designed to destroy cities.

However, Ramzan Kadyrov, who is head of Russia’s Chechnya region, said Moscow should consider using a low-yield, tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine.

These are nuclear weapons used on the battlefield for a tactical purpose. They are far less powerful than the bombs needed to destroy large cities such as Moscow, Washington or London.

Such weapons can be dropped from planes, fired on missiles from the ground, ships or submarines, or detonated by ground forces.

The US has not laid out how it would respond in the event of a Russian nuclear strike, although US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has said Washington warned Moscow there would be catastrophic consequences if Russia used nuclear weapons.

Retired General and former CIA chief David Petraeus said if Moscow were to use nuclear weapons, then the US and NATO would destroy Russian troops and equipment in Ukraine as well as sink its entire Black Sea fleet.

Last weekend saw reports emerge NATO had warned members Putin would demonstrate his willingness to use nuclear weapons by using one at Ukraine’s border.

There were also claims tactical nuclear weapons were being transported by train to Russia’s border with Ukraine.

However, a Western diplomat said today NATO has not warned members of the military alliance of a Russian nuclear threat.

The diplomat said: “We have not received any warnings.”

A senior Pentagon official also said today she had no information to corroborate reports suggesting Russia might be moving tactical nuclear weapons by rail, and added the US military had not seen anything to change its own nuclear posture. Laura Cooper, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence, said: “I don’t have anything else but the open source reports.”

The Kremlin also dismissed the claims.

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