Russia Responds to Biden's Warning to Putin Not to Use Nuclear Weapons

The Kremlin has given a curt response when asked about Joe Biden's warning that the Russian leader should not resort to weapons of mass destruction in his invasion of Ukraine.

Biden was asked by CBS News about what his message would be to Putin if he felt the best way to retaliate and wrest back the initiative would be to use chemical or tactical nuclear weapons.

The U.S. president replied "don't, don't, don't" adding that such an action would "change the face of war unlike anything since World War Two".

When asked for his response to the exchange Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Saturday, "Read the doctrine. Everything is written there," RIA Novosti reported.

Russia's nuclear doctrine says nuclear weapons use might follow "an aggression against Russia or its ally with the use of mass destruction weapons" or if the country faced aggression "when the very existence of the state is under threat."

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit, on September 16, 2022, in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. U.S. President Joe Biden has warned Putin not to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine. Getty Images

Over the course of the war, there has been mixed messaging coming from Moscow about the prospect of nuclear weapons being deployed.

Soon after he launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Putin put his nuclear forces on high alert. Guests and anchors of state television channels which reflect Kremlin thinking have frequently described Russia's nuclear capabilities and the prospect of their use as part of its war effort.

However, Russia's Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu said last month that nuclear weapons were not necessary from a military perspective and that "the main objective of Russia's nuclear arsenal is to hold down nuclear attacks."

Peskov, as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have previously said only conventional weapons would be used in Ukraine.

Russia has around 6,000 nuclear warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

Tactical nuclear weapons can be used at relatively short distances while "strategic" nuclear weapons can be launched over much longer distances and raise the prospect of all-out nuclear war.

Speculating is growing over what Putin would do next after a humiliating retreat in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region and faced with a shortage of manpower.

Rose Gottemoeller, NATO's deputy secretary general from 2016 to 2019, previously told Newsweek she was concerned Putin might resort to a weapon of mass destruction (WMD), such as a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon.

But there is skepticism over whether such a move would be in Putin's interest.

"A nuclear strike would have a shock effect but it is unlikely to deter Ukraine, and it would merely serve to unify the West and cause Russian allies like China to back away," said Peter Rutland, professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, at Wesleyan University, Connecticut.