NEW YORK — President Joe Biden said Thursday that the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” is at its highest level since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, as Russian officials talk about the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons after suffering an eight-month invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at a fundraiser for the Democratic Senate Committee, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a guy I know pretty well” and that the Russian leader “isn’t kidding when he talks about using tactical nuclear weapons, biological or chemical weapons.” “

Biden added: “We haven’t faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.” He suggested that the threat from Putin is real “because his army is, you could say, significantly ineffective.”

US officials have warned for months about the possibility of Russia using weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine as it has suffered a series of strategic setbacks on the battlefield, although Biden’s remarks were the US government’s sharpest warnings yet about its nuclear stakes.

It is not yet clear whether Biden had in mind some new assessment of Russia’s intentions. However, as recently as this week, US officials said they do not see any changes in Russia’s nuclear forces that would require a change in the combat readiness posture of US nuclear forces.

“We see no reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture, and we have no indication that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons imminently,” White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.

The 13-day standoff in 1962, which occurred after the US discovered the Soviet Union’s secret location of nuclear weapons in Cuba, is seen by experts as the closest the world has come to nuclear annihilation. The crisis during the administration of President John F. Kennedy sparked a renewed focus on arms control on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Biden also challenged Russia’s nuclear doctrine, warning that the use of lower-powered tactical weapons could quickly spiral out of control and lead to global destruction.

“I don’t think there is such a thing as the ability to easily use tactical nuclear weapons and not end up in Armageddon,” Biden said.

He added that he is still “trying to figure out” Putin’s “turn” in Ukraine.

– Where does he find a way out? Biden asked. “Where did he end up in such a position that he not only lost face, but also significant power in Russia?”

Putin has repeatedly hinted at using his country’s vast nuclear arsenal, including last month when he announced plans to draft Russian men to serve in Ukraine.

“I would like to remind you that our country also possesses various means of destruction… and in the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country, in order to protect Russia and our people, we will definitely use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said. Sept. 21, adding with a long stare into the camera, “It’s not a bluff.”

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that the US had “clearly” told Russia about the “consequences” of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

“This is something we take very seriously and are in direct communication with Russia, including about the resolute response of the United States should they go down this dark path,” Sullivan said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier Thursday that Putin understands that “the world will never forgive” a Russian nuclear strike.

“He understands that after the use of nuclear weapons, he will no longer be able to save, so to speak, his life, and I am sure of that,” Zelensky said.

Biden’s comments came during a private fundraiser for Democratic Senate candidates at the Manhattan home of James and Catherine Murdoch. He tends to be more reserved — often speaking only in gruff notes — in settings that are open only to a handful of reporters without cameras or recording devices.

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