US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he doubted whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would use a tactical nuclear weapon as Ukraine pleaded for a rapid increase in Western military aid to defend against missile strikes on its cities.
The Russian president, under domestic pressure to ramp up the war as his forces have lost ground since early September, ordered missile strikes on Monday in response to an alleged Ukrainian attack on Russia’s bridge to annexed Crimea last weekend.
In recent weeks, Moscow moved to annex new tracts of Ukraine after referendums widely denounced as illegal, mobilised hundreds of thousands of Russians to fight, and repeatedly threatened to use nuclear arms, stoking alarm in the West.
Putin is a “rational actor who has miscalculated significantly,” Biden said in a CNN interview.
Asked how realistic he believed it would be for Putin to use a tactical nuclear weapon, Biden responded: “Well, I don’t think he will.”
A European diplomat said NATO was considering convening a virtual summit of the alliance to consider its response to Russia’s nuclear threats, annexation of Ukrainian territory and mobilisation of troops.
NATO has not noticed any change in Russia’s nuclear posture following the threats, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he expects a positive response on Wednesday from Western allies in Brussels to his requests for a rapid increase in military aid as the country’s cities faced more Russian missile strikes.
After Monday’s barrage of Russian missiles, Zelenskiy appealed to the leaders of the Group of Seven nations on Tuesday for more air defence capabilities. The G7 vowed to support Kyiv for “as long as it takes.”