It was not immediately clear how or when the warnings were sent. The State Department was involved, according to an official. The Biden administration has also relied heavily on intelligence channels to communicate sensitive messages to Moscow throughout Russia’s escalation and continued war in Ukraine, including recently in negotiations over Americans wrongfully detained.
US officials have stressed that this is not the first time Putin has threatened to turn to nuclear weapons since he began his invasion of Ukraine in February, although some analysts have viewed the threat as more specific and more progressive than the past rhetoric of the Russian president.
The United States has also sought to dissuade Russia from using a nuclear weapon in public warnings in the past and made the issue a topic of remarks at the United Nations General Assembly this week in New York. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that “Russia’s reckless nuclear threats must end immediately.”
US President Joe Biden, appearing on CBS’s “60 Minutes” last week, said his message to Putin if he contemplated the use of nuclear weapons was: “Don’t. Not. Not. Not.
The US reaction would be “consecutive” but would depend “on the extent of what they do,” Biden said, without providing further details.
So far, senior CIA officials have said publicly that they have seen no signs that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons. But some military analysts fear Russia may seek to use a so-called tactical, or battlefield, nuclear weapon in response to its poor performance in Ukraine – a tactic sometimes called “escalate to defuse”. Intelligence officials believe Putin would likely only turn to this option if he felt Russia or its regime were existentially in danger, and it’s unclear whether he would think losing his war in Ukraine would match that. description.