The New York Times reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not part of the discussions, according to multiple senior U.S. officials. The report said that Putin has the sole power to issue the order to use nuclear weapons.
U.S. military officials were stunned that the discussions were even taking place because it meant that Putin’s past threats about using nuclear weapons may not be just bluster. The officials would not disclose the specific scenarios that Russian military leaders discussed where they would potentially use such weapons.
However, the report said that officials have not seen any substantial evidence that the Russians were planning to use tactical nuclear weapons in the near future.
Reports surfaced early last month that a Russian military train was reportedly transporting equipment for the nation’s nuclear weapons program to the frontlines of its war with Ukraine, sparking fears that Putin could be preparing to use nuclear weapons amid Russia’s mounting losses in the war.
The Telegraph reported that the train is “operated by the secretive nuclear division and linked to the 12th main directorate of the Russian ministry of defence.” The train, which was pictured on a Russian propaganda Telegram account, was reportedly on its way to Ukraine from central Russia.
Russia has since accused Ukraine of planning to use a dirty bomb against Russia, but then the U.S. in turn accused Russia of planning a false flag attack.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin later tamped down those fears while speaking to reporters, saying, “We have not seen anything to indicate that Putin has made a decision to use a dirty bomb.”
“It would be the first time a nuclear weapon has been used in over 70 years,” he said. “If this happened, we have been clear from the very beginning that you would see a very significant response from the international community.”
President Joe Biden used the remarks to apparently boost fundraising while talking to Democrats, saying that Putin is “not joking” about potentially using “tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is you might say significantly underperforming.”
“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis,” Biden said, adding that “we have a direct threat of the use of nuclear weapons if in fact things continue down the path they are going.”