Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could spark nuclear arms race, SecDef says

“They may well conclude that obtaining nuclear weapons would give them their own license to hunt. And that could lead to a dangerous spiral of nuclear proliferation,” the secretary told the Halifax International Security Forum.

Austin further warned that “Putin may again resort to deeply irresponsible nuclear saber slashes” as the war drags on and if Ukrainian forces continue their gains against Russian troops.

The secretary said it was in the national interest to help defend Ukraine and that there was no choice but to help in Kyiv’s fight, as peace talks are in short supply. likely anytime soon.

The comments come amid a new round of missile tests by North Korea, including the recent launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, moves that have again raised fears the Pyongyang regime is increasing range. and the sophistication of its nuclear-capable missile. arsenal. At the same time, international efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal have stalled and Iran has significantly expanded its nuclear program.

Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he agreed with Austin’s assessment, particularly regarding Iran. “If the Iranians get their hands on a nuclear weapon, there will be a rush of countries in the Middle East and other parts of the world who think they must have nuclear weapons to respond,” he said. . ” This is not an easy task. It is a big concern.

There are no signs that Ukraine is ready to negotiate with Russia, even as Russian forces retreat to southern Ukraine and Russian missile strikes hit civilian infrastructure across the country, knocking out lights , heating and water in Kyiv and other major cities.

During his own speech in Halifax, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared to say that Moscow had asked Kyiv for a “short truce”. But one of his top aides, the head of the presidential office Andriy Yermak, said Russia had made no direct request for a temporary pause in the fighting.

NATO’s top military official, Adm. Rob Bauer, had exchanged a series of letters over the past year with Russian army chief General Valery Gerasimov, a back-and-forth cut by the Russian general several weeks ago, Bauer told POLITICO on the sidelines of the event.

“I’m not in his head, but if I have to guess, I’d say it didn’t do him any good to contact me,” Bauer said, adding that Gerasimov had demanded that NATO stop supplying weapons to the Ukraine. “He basically said in his last communication that he didn’t want to talk until NATO backed down” from supporting Ukraine.

Bauer pointed out that the weapons and military aid provided to Ukraine are provided by NATO member states, but the Kremlin equates this with contributions from the alliance itself.

He said that Gerasimov told him in his last communication: “you are part of the problem”.


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