Emmanuel Macron rebuked Joe Biden yesterday after the US president warned that the West was facing an impending “nuclear Armageddon”. Mr Biden made the claim following repeated thinly veiled threats from Vladimir Putin, who has faced a series of humiliations in recent weeks, heightening fears that he may turn to nuclear weapons. However, US officials have been keen to point out that his comments were not the result of any new intelligence from Russia that would point to Putin pulling the trigger on such devastating weapons. Mr Macron urged the US president, who has made a habit of sparking trouble by going off-script, to speak more carefully.
Speaking off-script at a private event on Friday, Mr Biden said: “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since [President JFK] Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis. I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.”
But Mr Macron responded: “We must speak with prudence when commenting on such matters.”
Mr Biden’s warning marked a serious declaration of alarm regarding Russia’s approach to the war, and followed several weeks of humiliation for Putin. It referred to when then-President Kennedy heard of the Soviet Union’s deployment of missiles to Cuba in 1962, prompting an incredibly tense stand-off with Russian leader Nikita Khrushvhev.
Mr Biden remarked that Putin was “not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons, or biological or chemical weapons”, adding that this was because his military is “significant underperforming”.
Claiming to know Putin “fairly well”, the president added: “We are trying to figure out, what is Putin’s off-ramp? Where does he find a way out?”
Asked about the remarks, Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin said: “The way out of this conflict is for Russia to leave Ukraine. That is the way out of the conflict.”
The White House has strained to avoid using inflammatory language while speaking with the Kremlin. However, it has warned the tyrant that he will face “catastrophic consequences” if he does turn to nuclear weapons.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said: “We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture, nor do we have indications that Russia is preparing to imminently use nuclear weapons. He [Mr Biden] was reinforcing what we have been saying, which is how seriously we take these threats.”
Mr Biden has previously caused alarm by going off-script, when he called for Putin to be removed from power in March.
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Putin is becoming increasingly embattled as a recent Ukrainian counter-offensive makes a mockery of his invasion. Within days of the dictator claiming to have annexed four regions of Ukraine following referendums which have been all but proven to be a sham, all four of the areas were no longer fully under Russian control as Kyiv’s troops began to claw back their territory.
Meanwhile, his calling of a partial military mobilisation has led only to further humiliation, as more Russian civilians flee the country than sign up to the war.
US intelligence has even claimed that Putin has been directly confronted by a member of his own inner circle over his handling of the war, reportedly challenging him on “extensive military shortcomings”.
In another recent blow to his authority, the bridge connecting Crimea to Russia has been blown up, further damaging his military endeavours.