Emmanuel Macron opens split among Western allies by criticising Joe Biden’s warning that Putin could start ‘nuclear Armageddon’ in Ukraine
- Macron rebukes Biden over his warning that Putin could start ‘Armageddon’
- White House tried to walk comments back and blamed Russian irresponsibility
- US officials scrambled to assure allies they had no specific intel on Putin’s plans
- Macron spoke of the need to speak with care on the nuclear threat from Putin
- Finnish PM also rebuked Biden over his comments that Putin need an ‘off ramp’
French President Emmanuel Macron had stern words for Joe Biden’s ‘political fiction’ after his US counterpart warned that Putin could start ‘nuclear Armageddon’.
Biden was thought to be speaking ‘off the cuff’ when he said that Vladimir Putin was ‘not joking when he talks about the use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons,’ at the end of a Democratic fundraising event on Thursday night
‘We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.’
The US President suggested the threat from Putin is real ‘because his military is — you might say — significantly underperforming.’
US security officials scrambled to reassure allies that they have no new evidence that Putin has imminent plans for a nuclear strike, but the comments still irked some of his NATO allies.
When asked about Mr Biden’s remarks, French President Emmanuel Macron said it was crucial to speak with care on the nuclear threat.
Macron said: ‘We must speak with prudence when commenting on such matters.’
‘I have always refused to engage in political fiction, and especially … when speaking of nuclear weapons,’ Mr Macron said at a EU summit in Prague. ‘On this issue, we must be very careful.’
French President Emmanuel Macron rebuked Joe Biden when he said it was crucial to speak with care on the nuclear threat
Joe Biden had invoked ‘nuclear Armageddon’ on Thursday night when he spoke of the danger of Vladimir Putin using nukes in Ukraine after suffering losses on the battlefield
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Friday did not directly respond to a question about whether Mr Biden had gone into the event intending to invoke Armageddon, as the White House sought to clarify the president’s off-script comments.
Instead the put the focus on Russia, telling reporters: ‘Russia’s talk of using nuclear weapons is irresponsible and there’s no way to use them without unintended consequences. It cannot happen.’
She added that ‘if the Cuban missile crisis has taught us anything, it is the value of reducing nuclear risk and not brandishing it’.
Biden’s warning that the world is at risk of a nuclear ‘Armageddon’ was designed to send an unvarnished message that no one should underestimate the extraordinary danger if Russia deploys tactical nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine, administration officials said.
Sanna Marin, the Prime Minister of Finland – a future NATO member – also appeared to rebuke Biden for his comments that Putin needed an ‘off ramp’.
‘I’m trying to figure out what is Putin’s off ramp?’ Biden was reported to have said at the same fundraising event.
‘Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself in a position that he does not not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia?’
When asked to respond to Biden’s comments, Marin replied curtly: ‘The way out of this conflict is for Russia to leave Ukraine. That is the way out of the conflict.’
Biden’s national security team has warned for months that Russia could use weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine as it has faced a series of strategic setbacks on the battlefield. But the president’s remarks were the starkest warnings yet by the US government about the nuclear stakes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has made veiled threats about using nuclear weapons in the war with Ukraine, causing much consternation among NATO leaders
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin also appeared to rebuke Biden when he spoke of Putin needing an ‘off ramp’. Marin said: ‘The way out of this conflict is for Russia to leave Ukraine. That is the way out of the conflict’
One US official said Biden was also trying to warn against underestimating the danger any level of tactical nuclear weapons.
‘We’ve got a guy I know fairly well,’ Biden had said at the reception for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
‘He’s not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is — you might say — significantly underperforming.’
‘Don’t be fooled by the idea that smaller, tactical weapons were not a major threat to the world,’ he continued at the reception for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
‘I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily [use] a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon,’ he said.
There is some concern in the administration that Russia has determined it can use its nuclear arsenal in a manner short of a ‘full-blown’ nuclear attack on Ukraine and face only limited reaction from US and Western allies who are determined to keep the Ukraine conflict from turning into a broader war, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The nuclear sabre-rattling comes as an increasingly desperate Putin continues to suffer losses in south and eastern Ukraine
Mr Putin has repeatedly alluded to using his country’s vast nuclear arsenal, including last month when he announced plans to conscript Russian men to serve in Ukraine.
‘I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction … and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,’ Mr Putin said. ‘It’s not a bluff.’
In Europe, leaders sought to turn down the volume after Mr Biden’s stark warning.
European Council President Charles Michel told reporters that leaders take ‘every escalation very seriously’.
‘Threats will not intimidate us,’ Mr Michel said. ‘Instead, we are going to remain calm. We are going to keep cool heads and we will, each time, denounce the irresponsible character of these threats.’
Putin’s mood will not be helped by news that the crucial bridge that connects occupied-Crimea to the Russian mainland was destroyed overnight.
Videos show an explosion rocking the Kerch Bridge which could cut supplies to Putin’s forces as Ukraine makes more advances in the south towards Kherson.
The cause of the fire is not yet clear but Ukraine has been targeting Russian logistics in recent weeks
The rail bridge from Russia to the Crimean peninsula can be seen engulfed in flames on the right, while a huge section of the road bridge has collapsed into the sea
Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky Friday urged western allies to ‘kick’ back against Putin’s alleged plans to use nuclear weapons in the country.
Zelensky slammed Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling, saying it posed ‘a risk for the whole planet’.
In a new interview with the BBC, Zelensky also said Kremlin officials are working to ‘prepare their citizens’ for the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
He added: ‘That’s very dangerous. They are not ready to do it, to use it. But they begin to communicate. They don’t know whether they’ll use or not use it. I think it’s dangerous to even speak about it.’
Zelensky called on NATO members to use more ‘preventive kicks’ against Russia in a new bid to halt the war.
He said: ‘The world can stop urgently the actions of Russian occupiers.’The world can implement the sanction package in such cases and do everything to make them leave the [Zaporizhzhia] nuclear power plant.’
Zelensky tonight told the BBC that Russia is ‘preparing its citizens’ for nuclear warfare
He told John Simpson (left) that the west must use more ‘preventive kicks’ against Moscow
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