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After US President Joe Biden warned last week that the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” was at its highest point since the Cuban Missile Crisis, he told CNN on Tuesday he doesn't believe President Vladimir Putin would ultimately take that step.
“I don’t think he will,” Biden said when asked by CNN's Jake Tapper whether the Russian leader would use a tactical nuclear weapon — a prospect US officials have watched with concern as Russian troops suffer embarrassing losses on the battlefield.
“I think it’s irresponsible for him to talk about it, the idea that a world leader of one of the largest nuclear powers in the world says he may use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine,” Biden added.
The President said even Putin’s threats have a destabilizing effect and warned of the potential errors in judgment that could ensue.
“The whole point I was making was it could lead to just a horrible outcome,” he told Tapper. “And not because anybody intends to turn it into a world war or anything, but just once you use a nuclear weapon, the mistakes that can be made, the miscalculations, who knows what would happen.”
“He, in fact, cannot continue with impunity to talk about the use of a tactical nuclear weapon as if that’s a rational thing to do,” Biden added later. “The mistakes get made. And the miscalculation could occur, no one can be sure what would happen and could end in Armageddon.”
Biden refused to disclose what a US response would look like should Putin follow through on his nuclear threats. But he said the Department of Defense had proactively developed contingencies should the scenario come to pass.
“What is the red line for the United States and NATO, and have you directed the Pentagon and other agencies to game out what a response would be if he did use a tactical nuclear weapon or if he bombed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine or anything along those lines?” Tapper asked.
“There’s been discussions of that, but I’m not going to get into that. It would be irresponsible of me to talk about what we would or wouldn’t do,” Biden said.
“Have you asked the Pentagon to game it out, though?” Tapper asked.
“The Pentagon didn’t have to be asked,” Biden said.
Biden spoke to CNN a few hours after meeting virtually with members of the Group of 7 industrialized nations, who heard from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the need to bolster his country's air defenses amid the new Russian bombardments.
US President Joe Biden said Tuesday he doesn't see a good reason to sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin at next month’s Group of 20 Summit in Indonesia.
“It would depend on specifically what he wanted to talk about,” Biden told CNN's Jake Tapper in an exclusive interview, adding if Putin wanted to discuss the jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner then he would be open to talking.
“But look, he’s acted brutally, he’s acted brutally,” Biden said. “I think he’s committed war crimes. And so I don’t, I don’t see any rationale to meet with him now.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Russian state TV that Moscow was open to talks with the West on the Ukraine conflict but had yet to receive any serious proposal to negotiate.
US Secretary of State Tony Blinken and State’s Undersecretary for Political Affairs Toria Nuland met the DC diplomatic corps – representing more than 100 countries — in virtual meetings on Tuesday to urge them to support a UN resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories.
This is the latest effort by the Biden administration to maintain global continuity of support for Ukraine.
"This is about collectively saying no to a direct violation of the UN Charter, to say no to an attempt to steal land for the threat force and to steal land through the use of force," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.
What to know about the resolution: The vote is expected to take place at an emergency UN General Assembly meeting in the coming days. It comes at a critical moment in the war, with Russia increasing its attacks and Europe heading into a winter during which an energy crisis threatens to test support for Ukraine.
Biden administration officials have their eyes set on getting 100 votes in favor of the resolution, one administration official said.
But earlier this year the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the vote was 141 nations in favor of the move and five nations against it, with 35 abstaining. If there are fewer supporters on this vote, it may be the reason for concern, some diplomats acknowledged.
The resolution will need yes votes from two-thirds of the attending countries to pass, US officials said.
While Russia is expected to oppose the resolution, the US will be watching for which other countries oppose it as well. And there are some possible detractors that the US is watching closely, specifically India. India abstained from a UN Security Council vote on the same topic last week.
Russia launched missile strikes on several regions of Ukraine on Tuesday, the second day of heavy bombardment aimed at the nation's infrastructure.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked G7 nations to help his country establish an “air shield” against aerial attacks.
Russia carried out over 30 missile strikes on Tuesday, compared to 84 on Monday. Roughly half of those on Tuesday were neutralized by air defenses, according to Ukraine’s military.
It is unclear how much longer the Russian military will be able to sustain such attacks.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, US President Joe Biden said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “rational actor” who badly miscalculated his ability to invade Ukraine.
Here are the latest developments:
- Russia confirms it’s targeting Ukrainian energy facilities: Russia is targeting Ukrainian military and energy facilities in attacks on Tuesday, according to the Ministry of Defense in Moscow. “Today, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation continue launching the massive attack using high-precision long-range air- and sea-based armament at the facilities of military control and energy system of Ukraine,” the ministry said in a post on Telegram.
- Energy minister says about 30% of Ukraine's energy infrastructure hit since Monday: Around 30% of energy infrastructure in Ukraine has been hit by Russian missiles since Monday, Ukraine's Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said Tuesday. The minister told CNN that this was the “first time from the beginning of the war” that Russia has “dramatically targeted” energy infrastructure.
- Official at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant kidnapped by Russian forces, Ukrainian company says: Ukraine's state nuclear energy company Energoatom said that a deputy director general for human resources at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been kidnapped. In a post on its Telegram channel, Energoatom said that "Russian terrorists" was holding Valeriy Martyniuk at an unknown location, adding that Russia wanted the plant's personnel files "to force Ukrainian staff to work for Rosatom [Russia's nuclear operator] as soon as possible."
- G7 leaders vow to hold Putin to account for recent attacks: The G7 heads of government vowed to hold President Vladimir Putin and those "responsible to account” for the recent wave of attacks in Ukraine. After a virtual meeting Tuesday, they committed to support Ukraine for "as long as it takes," while promising to continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military, diplomatic and legal support.
- Russia declares Meta a terrorist organization: The Russian Federal Financial Monitoring Service has added the US tech company, Meta, to its registry of organizations involved in terrorism and extremism. The parent company of Facebook and Instagram has been banned in Russia, says Rosfinmonitoring. That ban now requires banks to freeze funds for companies on that list and suspend services to their accounts.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said more than half the missiles and drones that Russia fired on Tuesday were brought down.
In his daily video address, Zelensky noted that 20 of the 28 missiles that were fired on Tuesday morning were shot down.
He paid tribute to one soldier, Dmytro Shumskyi, for bringing down two Russian cruise missiles on Monday using a shoulder-held anti-aircraft missile.
"If not for today's strikes, we would have already restored power, water supply and communications, which terrorists damaged yesterday. And today Russia will achieve only one more thing: delay our restoration a little bit," Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian president said the power supply and communications have been restored in most of the impacted towns and villages.
"In some cities and districts, the works are still ongoing," he said, noting that there were some restrictions in the power supply in some areas to maintain the stability of the power system.
Zelensky said that Ukraine would be meeting its partners in Germany on Wednesday to address Ukraine's military needs.
"I expect our partners to make progress in the issue of air and missile defense, agreements on the new supply of other weapons and ammunition we need," he said.
President Joe Biden said in an exclusive CNN interview Tuesday he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “rational actor” who nonetheless badly misjudged his ability to invade Ukraine and suppress its people.
“I think he is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly,” Biden told Jake Tapper as Russian bombardments on civilian targets in Ukraine signaled another turning point in the months-long war.
Biden, his top officials and fellow Western leaders have spent the past several months debating what steps Putin may take as his troops suffer embarrassing losses on the battlefield in Ukraine. Biden himself warned last week the risk of “nuclear Armageddon” was at its highest point in 60 years.
Whether Putin is acting rationally has been a subject of intense debate as leaders work to predict his next steps. While Biden said Tuesday he believed Putin himself was rational, he characterized the Russian leader’s aims in Ukraine — which Putin laid out in an angry speech as he launched the war in February — as ridiculous.
“You listen to what he says. If you listen to the speech he made after when that decision was being made, he talked about the whole idea of — he was needed to be the leader of Russia that united all of Russian speakers. I mean, it's just I just think it's irrational,” Biden said.
Going further, Biden said Putin wrongly believed Ukrainians would submit to Russian invasion — a misjudgment that’s been disproved by fierce resistance inside the country.
“I think the speech, his objectives were not rational. I think he thought, Jake, I think he thought he was going to be welcomed with open arms, that this was the home of Mother Russia in Kyiv, and that where he was going to be welcomed, and I think he just totally miscalculated,” Biden said.
Indeed, a counteroffensive launched by Ukraine last month was successful in retaking territory previously held by the Russians, including critical transportation hubs. The losses proved the latest major embarrassment for Russia, whose military has struggled over the course of the seven-month war.
Tapper’s full interview with Biden airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu on Tuesday urged Ukraine's allies to "not be frightened" by the warnings from the Russian ambassador to the US of crossing “red lines” by providing arms to Kyiv.
"All the policies of, in a way, of appeasement — what we have, well maybe in some cases, have used to avoid escalation — have led us where? To this genocidal type of war and now I think we should not to be frightened. What more can happen? The genocide is taking place. And in the sake of humanity, in the sake of our own security of Europe we have to act, ” Reinsalu told CNN's Isa Soares.
He said he believes the allies must ramp up support for Ukraine.
What is needed is a “new deliverable by Western countries to air defense, to defend particularly the civilian areas, civic infrastructure, particularly also before the winter falls,” the minister added.
As for Putin’s veiled threats of a nuclear strike, Reinsalu said it was "part of this chicken game, and we should not fall to that entrapment."
He added: “The only person who can immediately end the war is Putin."
Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said Tuesday that four electrical substations had been damaged in the Lviv region, "resulting in serious problems" with the energy supply in the city.
Russia launched fresh missile attacks against Ukraine — including in the western region — on Monday and Tuesday.
He said full restoration of power requires patience.
"Our power engineering specialists are doing everything possible to overcome the critical situation. It requires time," Sadovyi said on Twitter.
The mayor urged residents to "minimize energy consumption" once the power system is back and running.
"I ask you to be understanding under these circumstances. The enemy is striving to destabilize us but we will not give in," he added.
Earlier, Sadovyi told CNN that Russian strikes fuel the Ukrainian people's resistance to Russian forces. He also called for more air defense systems as well as generators.