America and its allies will act “decisively” if Russia uses a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday, reaffirming Joe Biden’s White House’s previous response to growing concerns that Vladimir Putin’s threats are more likely to be realized.
“We have communicated directly, privately and at very high levels to the Kremlin that any use of nuclear weapons will have catastrophic consequences for Russia, that the United States and our allies will respond decisively, and we have been clear and specific about what it will entail,” Sullivan told CBS’s Face The Nation.
Sullivan said Russian leader Putin had “wiggled around the nuclear map at various points in this conflict,” and that it was an issue the Biden administration must “take seriously because it’s a matter of ‘extreme gravity – the possible use of nuclear weapons for the first time since World War II’.
In a separate interview with CBS, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he wasn’t sure Putin was bluffing with nuclear threats. “Maybe yesterday was a bluff. Now that could be a reality,” he said. “He wants to scare the whole world.”
The administration’s security chief said Russia’s nuclear threat to Ukraine, including extending its nuclear umbrella over the still-contested eastern parts of the country seven months after its invasion, would not distract not the United States and its allies.
“We will continue to support Ukraine in its efforts to defend its country and defend its democracy,” Sullivan said, pointing to more than $15 billion worth of weapons, including air defense systems, hundreds of pieces of artillery and artillery shells, which the United States supplied to Ukraine.
He said Moscow’s mobilization of troops was a “sham referendum in the occupied regions” that would not deter the United States. “What Putin has done isn’t exactly a sign of strength or confidence – frankly, it’s a sign that they are struggling hard on the Russian side,” Sullivan said.
But, Sullivan added, it is “too early to make comprehensive predictions” about a collapse of Russian forces.
“I think what we are seeing are signs of incredible struggle between the Russians – you have low morale, where the soldiers don’t want to fight. And who can blame them for not wanting to participate in Putin’s war of conquest in their neighboring country?
Sullivan continued, “Russia is struggling, but Russia still remains a dangerous enemy capable of great brutality.” He alluded to mass burial sites containing hundreds of graves Ukrainian forces discovered after recapturing Izium from Russia and said, “We continue to take this threat seriously.”
He added that the United States, the International Atomic Agency and Ukrainian nuclear regulators were working together to ensure there was no “meltdown” at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in eastern Israel. Ukraine.
The Russians, he said, had “constantly hinted that there might be some sort of accident at this factory”.
The plant’s reactors, Sullivan said, had been placed in “cold storage” to “try to make sure there’s no threat posed by a meltdown or anything else to the plant.” But it’s something we all need to watch closely. »
Separately, Sullivan said U.S. criticism of a crackdown on growing protests in Iran following the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini would not affect the administration’s bid to lift sanctions on the government. Iran as part of efforts to reach a nuclear deal. enrichment.
“The fact that we are in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program in no way affects our willingness and our vehemence to denounce what is happening in the streets of Iran,” he said.
Last week, Biden told the United Nations General Assembly in New York that “we stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran who are protesting right now to secure their basic rights.” The US president’s remarks came shortly after a provocative speech by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
In his remarks on Sunday, Sullivan said the United States had taken “tangible steps” to sanction the vice squad that caused Mahsa Amini’s death.
“We have taken steps to make it easier for Iranians to access the internet and communication technologies to talk to each other and the world and we will do everything we can to support the brave, brave women, of Iran,” he said. Sullivan said.
But Sullivan declined to question whether the United States would change its policy of lifting sanctions in exchange for a nuclear deal in light of the protests.
“We are talking about diplomacy to prevent Iran from ever having a nuclear weapon,” he said. “If we…succeed…the world, America and her allies will be safer.”
But the pursuit of a nuclear deal, Sullivan said, “will in no way prevent us from pushing back and exposing Iran’s brutal crackdown on its citizens and women. We can and will do both.