US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has denounced the integration of eastern Ukrainian republics into Russia and warned that there is no one to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from following through on his recent threats of using nuclear weapons.
“To be clear, the guy who makes that decision — I mean, it’s one man. There are no checks on Mr. Putin,” Austin said in an interview on Sunday. “Just as he made the irresponsible decision to invade Ukraine, he could make another decision. But I don’t see anything right now that would lead me to believe that he has made such a decision.”
According to Press TV, Putin last month announced Russia would call up 300,000 reservists to bolster its military effort and threatened the West with nuclear weapons, saying it is “not a bluff.”
The White House national security adviser has said the United States will “respond decisively” if Putin orders the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, while Moscow has advised Washington of its nuclear “red line”.
“This nuclear saber-rattling is not the kind of thing that we would expect to hear from leaders of large countries with capability,” Austin said on CNN.
US President Joe Biden has warned Putin against thoughts of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, adding that it would “change the face of war unlike anything since WWII.”
Biden said Moscow would become a global pariah if it uses weapons of mass destruction on the former Soviet state.
Putin on Friday signed a decree for the formal accession of four regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to the Russian Federation.
Presiding over a signing ceremony with the Russian-installed heads of the four regions in the Kremlin on Friday, Putin announced that people in these regions are now considered Russian citizens as they have made their choice in referendums.
The Russian leader stressed that Ukraine has to respect the will of the people, vowing to defend the Russian land with all means.
Putin cited the “will of millions of people” shown by the referendums as the determining factor behind the move to join the territories as part of Russia.