Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest nuclear saber-rattling and his mobilization of Russia’s reserve forces are “an act of weakness” and based on “absurd” claims that world leaders are not going to buy, a senior Biden administration official said Wednesday.
The official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Putin is attempting to use the “sham” referendums planned in several Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine as the legal basis to escalate the war.
“The play he is running here is not going to succeed,” the official said.
Earlier Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization of 300,000 military reservists in a significant escalation of the war as the Kremlin attempts to turn the tide after a series of tactical embarrassments.
Russia has sustained heavy territorial losses in recent weeks from an aggressive Ukrainian counter-offensive that was enabled by the flood of military aid pouring in from its western allies since the invasion.
On Tuesday, four Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine announced plans to hold referendums on joining Russia.
In a rare televised address, Mr. Putin accused Ukraine of threatening to erode Russia’s independence and accused the West of “attempting to blackmail us with nuclear weapons.”
“Russian citizens must be confident: The territorial integrity of our motherland, our independence and freedom will be ensured. Let me stress it again: This will be ensured by all of our available means,” he said.
Mr. Putin warned that Russia will use all tools at its disposal in response adding that his threats are not a “bluff.”
“Those who are attempting to blackmail us with nuclear weapons must be aware that the prevailing winds may also turn towards their side,” he said.
His remarks mark a significant escalation in the Kremlin’s nuclear saber-rattling which has been a persistent rhetorical theme by Russian officials since the war broke out in February.
“It is not an act of confidence, in fact, it is an act of weakness,” the Biden administration official said.
“We’re sending very clear messages to Russia about the consequences of escalation,” the official said. “That doesn’t mean that we’re blind to the dynamics that could lead to escalation.”
President Biden on Wednesday denounced Russia in front of world leaders for “shamelessly” invading Ukraine and initiating a “brutal, needless” war.
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on the precipice of a significant escalation in Russia’s ground war, Mr. Biden called on world leaders to unite in rebuking the Kremlin.
Mr. Biden called the proposed votes a “sham” and warned that Russia was using the referenda as a pretext for annexation.
He said Mr. Putin’s “overt nuclear threats against Europe” a “reckless disregard” for the responsibilities under the U.N. non-proliferation agreement.
“We, each of us in this body, who are determined to uphold the principles and beliefs, we pledge to defend, as members of the United Nations must be clear, firm and unwavering in our resolve,” Mr. Biden said. “We will stand in solidarity with Ukraine. We will stand in solidarity against Russia‘s aggression, period.”