WASHINGTON: The prospect of an all-out nuclear war over the Ukraine crisis ticked up slightly on Sunday after Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the alert level of his nuclear arsenal to “special combat readiness” following the US and its G7 partners ramping up sanctions, virtually cutting off Russia from the international financial system.
The heightened alert, which is still several steps short of a full-blown “Defcon” situation, came even as Ukraine agreed to unconditional talks with Moscow after three days of holding out against Russian forces seeking to overrun Kyiv and Kharkhiv, its two major cities. Washington reacted calmly to Russia upping the ante with no public announcement regarding its nuclear alert status. The White House said the Russian alert is part of a pattern of Moscow manufacturing threats to justify aggression.
“We’ve seen him do this time and time again. At no point has Russia been under threat from Nato, has Russia been under threat from Ukraine. This is all a pattern from President Putin and we’re going to stand up to it. We have the ability to defend ourselves, but we also need to call out what we’re seeing here from President Putin,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told ABC News.
Putin’s explanation for raising the nuclear alert status appeared to be what he described as “aggressive statements” from Nato leaders, along with crippling financial sanctions on Russia, including the president himself. Although there was no immediate alarm in the US, experts warned of a slippery slope for both sides.