The risk of Armageddon is the highest it has been since the early 1960s, President Joe Biden said Thursday night as Russian losses in Ukraine prompt Russian officials to discuss the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons.
“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Biden said at a fundraiser in New York for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In October 1962 the U.S. and the Soviet Union were seemingly on the verge of a nuclear conflict after the U.S. deployment of ballistic missiles in Turkey and Italy were countered by the Soviet deployment of similar missiles in Cuba.
The president said the Russia President Vladimir Putin, “a guy I know fairly well,” is not joking when he talks of using “nuclear or biological or chemical weapons.”
“I don’t there is any such a thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon,” Biden said.
Speaking to Democratic donors, Biden said he and U.S. officials were still “trying to figure out Putin’s off-ramp” in Ukraine.
“Where does he find a way out?” Biden asked. “Where does he find himself in a position he does not not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia?”
The president reiterated that the U.S. would continue to support Ukraine.
In Ukraine on Thursday, a Ukrainian official said Russian shelling struck residential buildings in Zaporizhzhia, killing at least two people.
Oleksandr Starukh, the governor of the Zaporizhzhia region, posted on Telegram that five other people were trapped in rubble following the attack.
Ukraine controls the city, but the Zaporizhzhia region is mostly occupied by Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law Wednesday declaring Russia was annexing Zaporizhzhia and three other regions, a move denounced by Ukraine and its Western partners, as well as the United Nations, as a violation of international law.
Zaporizhzhia is home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and shelling in the area in recent months has raised international fears of a nuclear disaster.
Rafael Grossi, the head of the U.N.’s atomic energy agency, is due to visit Kyiv and Moscow this week for what he said would be important meetings. He said Wednesday that the need for a protective zone around the power plant is “now more urgent than ever.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Wednesday that his forces had recaptured Novovoskrysenske, Novohryhorivka and Petropavlivka, three villages in the Kherson region that was also a part of Russia’s annexation claims.
The gains add to Ukraine’s recent successes in reclaiming territory from Russia in the northeastern and southern parts of the country.
Zelenskyy said in his address that Putin has “already lost,” calling the war the Russian leader launched in late February “self-destruction of your nation’s every prospect.”
“Ukrainians know what they fight for,” Zelenskyy said. “And more and more Russian citizens realize that they must die simply because one single man does not want to stop the war.”
The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, arrived in Kyiv on Thursday for what the agency said was a visit to meet with government officials, farmers, journalists, entrepreneurs and energy workers to discuss how to more effectively assist the Ukrainian people.
“It is a critical moment for the Ukrainian people as they defend their freedom from brutal attack, liberate occupied land, prepare for winter, and strengthen democratic institutions & the rule of law,” Power tweeted.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.