President Biden downplayed the possibility that Russia will use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, saying Tuesday that President Vladimir Putin is a “rational actor” despite having “miscalculated significantly” in his decision to invade his neighbor.
Mr. Biden’s subdued remarks come just days after he stoked panic by warning that the chance of nuclear “Armageddon” is reaching its highest point since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
“I don’t think he will,” Mr. Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper in a rare prime-time interview. “But it is irresponsible for him to talk about it.”
The president claimed that his widely-noted remarks last week were just making the point “that it could lead to a horrible outcome. Not because anybody intends to turn it into a world war. But once you use a nuclear weapon, mistakes can be made.”
Mr. Biden had delivered a far more chilling assessment of impending nuclear doom though while speaking at a private Democratic fundraising event.
He told a small group of donors that for the first time in decades, the U.S. faces “the direct threat of the use of a nuclear weapon if, in fact, things continue down the path they are going.”
He said Mr. Putin’s nuclear rhetoric in Ukraine was creating the biggest threat since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
After heavy territorial and personnel losses in Ukraine, Mr. Putin has significantly escalated his nuclear saber-rattling, though that has been a persistent rhetorical theme by lesser Russian officials since they invaded in February.
Mr. Putin warned in a rare televised event last month announcing the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of military reservists that Russia will use all tools at its disposal in response and added that his words were not a bluff.
On Tuesday, though, Mr. Biden said Mr. Putin is more rational than his recent statements suggest.
“I think he is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly,” he said of Mr. Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.
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