Putin Using Nuclear Weapons a Possibility U.S. Must Consider: Mullen

Retired Admiral Mike Mullen said Sunday that the United States must consider the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin will launch a nuclear strike as the war in Ukraine continues.

"It's very difficult to know what Putin is thinking at any particular time. He's obviously spoken to this. I think we need to make sure that we consider it as a possibility," Mullen told host Martha Raddatz during an interview on ABC's This Week.

Nuclear weapons "are a part of Putin's arsenal [and] he's pretty well cornered and boxed in," he said, adding that they're "the most devastating weapons ever created on Earth."

Mullen, who also served as the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair under former President Barack Obama, noted that such weapons were "devastating" when they were deployed in the 1940s and efforts should be made to "make sure that they don't get used."

Earlier this month, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov told Newsweek that NATO is not taking the nuclear war threat seriously.

Although Putin hasn't explicitly said that Russia will launch a nuclear attack, several high-ranking Western officials have warned that it's necessary to be prepared for any possible strike.

Russia using nuclear weapons is a possibility
Russian President Vladimir Putin using nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war is a possibility the U.S. must consider, Retired Admiral Mike Mullen said Sunday. Above, Putin is seen during the Summit of Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) on May 16 in Moscow, Russia. Photo by Contributor/Getty Images

On Saturday, Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah noted that given Putin's "illogical" actions, it is important to be ready to face any potential nuclear attacks.

"By invading Ukraine, Mr. Putin has already proved that he is capable of illogical and self-defeating decisions," Romney wrote in a New York Times op-ed. "If he loses in Ukraine, he not only will have failed to achieve his life's ambition to reverse what he sees as the 'greatest geopolitical catastrophe' of the 20th century—the collapse of the Soviet Union—but he will also have permanently diminished Russia as a great power and reinvigorated its adversaries."

Earlier this month, Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, weighed in on the possibility of Putin deploying weapons of mass destruction on Fox News Sunday. "One of my concerns is that, ironically, the more success that the Ukrainians have, the greater the risk that Putin will do something because he's losing and has to save face at home. And so the potential of a chemical, biological or tactical nuclear weapon may grow as a result of that."

Russia's Nuclear Weapons Doctrine

Russia has a military doctrine that outlines certain conditions in which the country is allowed to use nuclear weapons, according to Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko.

Russia is allowed to use the weapons if the country's critical government or military sites are attacked by the enemy in a way that would underestimate a nuclear force response actions. The conditions also include when the nation's enemies are also using those or other weapons that cause mass destruction on Russian territories and/or its allies.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian foreign affairs ministry for comment.