Lloyd Austin downplays Putin’s nuclear war threats: Biden’s Pentagon chief accuses Russia of “saber rattling” and dismisses fears of an “imminent invasion” of Taiwan by China
- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Vladimir Putin’s veiled nuclear threats were “irresponsible” after he signed a decree illegally annexing parts of Ukraine
- “This nuclear saber-rattling is not what we would expect from leaders of large countries with capabilities,” Austin said
- The Pentagon chief also described the annexation of Russia as “appearance” and “fiction”.
- Austin also predicted that China would use House Speaker Nancy Pelosis’ visit to Taiwan to establish a “new normal” on the world stage
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats as “saber rattling” but in an interview Sunday morning condemned the autocrat for continuing to upend the world order.
“Mr. Putin is not checked. Just as he made the irresponsible decision to invade Ukraine, he might make a different decision,” Austin told Fareed Zakharia GPS.
“But I don’t see anything at the moment that would lead me to believe that he made such a decision.”
The Pentagon chief also downplayed another foreign threat on the horizon when he told CNN that an “imminent invasion” of Taiwan by China was unlikely.
The interview comes more than seven months after Putin launched his bloody invasion of Ukraine and just days after he signed a decree illegally annexing parts of the former Soviet state.
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.
In signing the decree, Putin also condemned the “Satanic” West and vowed to use all of the Kremlin’s might to protect Russia’s new territory – in a situation widely seen as a nuclear threat.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threat was “irresponsible” but predicted the autocrat is unlikely to enforce it
He also condemned Putin’s illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine, which followed a referendum that Austin called a “sham.”
Austin called Putin’s words “irresponsible”.
“This nuclear saber-rattling is not what we would expect from leaders of large countries with capabilities,” the Pentagon chief said.
Austin also said China is using the numerous US congressional delegations to Taiwan to establish a “new normal”.
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.”
Austin was also asked about House Speaker Nancy Pelosis’ visit to Taiwan over the summer and the resulting high tensions with Beijing.
But the defense secretary said he concurred with assessments by other global experts that the explosive period had subsided.
However, he believes China has used Pelosi’s visit and the numerous congressional delegations since then to rearrange the world stage.
“I don’t see any impending invasion either. What we’re seeing is China moving to establish what we would call a new normal,” Austin explained.
“Increased activity: We have seen a number of cross-straits centerline crossings by their planes, and this number has increased over time. We’ve seen more activity with their surface vessels in the waters in and around Taiwan.’
He added, “So I think China took the opportunity of the congressional delegation’s visit to try to create a new normal.”