(NewsNation) — Although it is “unlikely” that Russian President Vladimir Putin will actually use nuclear weapons in Ukraine as he has threatened to do, U.S. officials have yet to take what he said seriously, said John Hardie of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
As Moscow is poised to annex swaths of Ukraine, Putin has declared that he will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons to protect Russian territory. He also raised the stakes by announcing a partial mobilization and vowing to use “all available means” to deter further attacks on Russia.
“The goal would presumably be to try to end the war and get Ukraine to accept Russia’s absorption of the occupied territories,” Hardie said on NewsNation’s “Morning in America.”
Hardie, deputy director of the foundation’s Russia program, said it’s unclear whether Putin is serious about these nuclear threats and how the United States would respond.
But even though there is a low probability of actual nuclear use, the potential consequences are “so enormous that they cannot be ruled out,” Hardie said.
“It’s really an open question,” he added. “But I wish the White House and the company luck in solving it because it’s a difficult political challenge.”
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden had harsh words for Russia, saying the country violated the United Nations charter with its “brutal and unnecessary war” in Ukraine, and that it is an affront to what the UN stands for.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, Biden said Putin’s nuclear threats against Europe show “reckless disregard” for Russia’s responsibilities as a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
He called on all nations to speak out against Russia’s invasion and help Ukraine defend itself.
“We will stand in solidarity against Russian aggression, period,” Biden said.
Hardy said Biden’s speech was strong.
“I liked the tone,” Hardie said. “We need to constantly remind the national community that Russia started this war, that its goals are, in a way, even genocidal.”
Associated Press contributed to this story.
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