A former CIA director warned that if Russian President Vladimir Putin used nuclear weapons in his war with Ukraine, US and NATO allies would destroy Russian forces.
David Petraeus appeared on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, where he said the nuclear threats posed by Putin must be taken seriously and that the ruler is “distressed” because the “battlefield reality he faces is irreversible.”
Putin earlier this week signed a decree illegally annexing parts of Ukraine. Days later, however, Russia was forced to withdraw troops from strategically important Lyman – located in one of the four Ukrainian regions annexed by Russia.
At the signing of the decree, Putin also condemned the “Satanic” West and vowed to use all of the Kremlin’s power to protect Russia’s new territory. The remark was widely viewed as a nuclear threat.
Petraeus said that although Ukraine is not a NATO country, a “US and NATO response” is warranted.
He told host Jonathan Karl that the likelihood of nuclear weapon radiation spreading to a NATO country could perhaps be construed as an attack on a NATO member.
“This is so awful that there has to be an answer — it can’t go unanswered.”
“Just to give you a hypothesis, we would respond by leading a NATO – a collective – effort that would eliminate every Russian conventional force that we can see and identify on the battlefield and also in Crimea, and every ship in the Black Sea. ‘
Former CIA director David Petraeus appeared on ABC’s This Week where he warned that if Russian President Vladimir Putin used nuclear weapons in his war with Ukraine, US and NATO allies would destroy Russian forces
Ukraine claimed full control of the eastern logistics hub of Lyman on Sunday. The area has been Russia’s most significant battlefield gain in weeks and offers a potential base for further attacks in the east while the Kremlin continues to be pressured.
Russia likely suffered heavy casualties during the retreat. Russia had 5,000 to 5,500 troops in the city before the Ukrainian attack, a Ukrainian military spokesman said on Saturday.
More than 60,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the war, which is now in its eighth month.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the capture of the city, where Ukrainian flags were raised over public buildings on Saturday, shows Ukraine’s ability to drive out Russian forces and shows the impact the use of advanced Western weapons can have in Ukraine on the conflict.
“President Zelenskyy and Ukraine have mobilized far better than Russia,” Petraeus said on Sunday. “Ukraine has recruited, trained, equipped, organized and deployed forces far better than Russia.”
“The battlefield reality he’s facing is irreversible, I think,” he said. “Not a lot of shambolic mobilization, that’s the only way to describe it; no extent of annexation; no nuclear threat, however veiled, can actually get him out of this particular situation.
“At some point it has to be acknowledged. At some point there must be some kind of beginning of negotiations, as President Zelenskyy said, they will be the final end.’
However, Petreaus pointed out that “in response to the annexation, a thousand more individual, personal and other sanctions were hit against Russia,” “showing that the West can do more to Russia.”
He continued with a warning: “Things can always get worse for Putin and for Russia. The use of tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield will not change that.’
But added: “You have to take the threat seriously.”
Petraeus also said he doesn’t see how Russia can win at this point.
‘You can not. He has nothing [Putin] can do at this point.’
Petraeus’ comments come after Putin on Friday announced the annexation of four regions covering nearly a fifth of Ukraine as the war enters its eighth month
He told co-moderator Jonathan Karl that the likelihood of radiation from a nuclear weapon spreading to a NATO country could perhaps be construed as an attack on a NATO member
Earlier Sunday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin dismissed Putin’s nuclear threats as “saber rattling” but condemned the autocrat for continuing to upend the global order.
“Mr. Putin is not checked. Just as he made the irresponsible decision to invade Ukraine, he could make a different decision,” Austin Fareed told Zakaria GPS.
“But I don’t see anything at the moment that would lead me to believe that he made such a decision.”
Videos emerged showing Russian troops forcing Ukrainian civilians at gunpoint to the ballot box to vote on whether to join Moscow’s jurisdiction.
“As you have heard us say, this referendum is a farce. It’s fiction. And we will never respect their illegal annexation of Ukraine’s territory, nor will most of the international community,” Austin said Sunday.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threat was “irresponsible” but predicted the autocrat is unlikely to enforce it
Austin branded Putin’s veiled nuclear threat “irresponsible.”
“This nuclear saber-rattling is not what we would expect from leaders of large countries with capabilities,” the Pentagon chief said.
He acknowledged high-level talks between Washington and Moscow, but Austin said he has not spoken to his Russian counterpart “in the past few days.”
“I addressed this very issue and cautioned against going down that path and committing this type of irresponsible behavior,” Austin said.
“So, yes, I’ve done that personally in the past, but I haven’t spoken to him recently.”
He also condemned Putin’s illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine, which followed a referendum that Austin called a “sham.”
Petreaus told ABC he has not spoken to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan about the likely US response to the nuclear escalation from Russia.
He stated that the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine would not constitute a situation triggering Article 5 of the alliance, which calls for collective defense. That’s because Ukraine isn’t part of NATO – but still, a “US and NATO response” would be appropriate.
Ukraine’s military said in its evening statement on Sunday that its forces had repelled Russian advances in several areas – notably in the Donetsk region near Bakhmut and Spirne, just inside the Donetsk region near Lysyhansk, a key center in the neighboring Luhansk region.
Russian forces captured Lyman from Ukraine in May and used it as a logistics and transport hub for their operations in northern Donetsk region. Its recapture by Ukrainian forces is Russia’s biggest battlefield loss since Ukraine’s Blitz counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region in September.
Control of Lyman could prove a “key factor” in helping Ukraine regain lost territory in the neighboring Luhansk region, which Moscow announced in early July after weeks of grueling progress, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai has said .