US Secretary of State Antony Blinkenthe Kremlin has a nuclear “chain of command”, but it’s unclear whether anyone will say “no” to Russian President Vladimir Putin if he decides to launch a nuclear weapon.
“And that’s the Achilles’ heel of autocracies everywhere,” the secretary of state said. “…There is usually no one who has the ability or the will to speak the truth to power. And part of the reason, I think, why Russia got itself into the mess it is in think it’s because there’s no one in the system to effectively tell Putin he’s doing the wrong thing.”
Putin enlisted 300,000 reservists and threatened nuclear war last Wednesday, and stressed that “this is not a bluff”. In an address to his people, Putin told his people that the West is determined to destroy the Russian homeland.
Blinken said Putin’s rhetoric was “irresponsible” and added that the United States had expressed concern to Russia over his threats.
“We strive to make sure we all act responsibly, especially when it comes to this kind of cowardly rhetoric,” Blinken told Pelley. “We have been very clear with the Russians publicly and, as well as privately, to end vague discussions about nuclear weapons.”
“In private, the United States has been in communication with the Kremlin about these nuclear war threats? Pelley asked.
“Yes,” Blinken said. “It’s very important that Moscow hear from us and know that the consequences would be horrific. And we said that very clearly.”
“You call nuclear talk ‘loose talk’,” Pelley said, “But isn’t Vladimir Putin telling us what he’s going to do if he gets even more stuck?”
“Vladimir Putin has a clear way out of the war he started and that’s to end it,” Blinken said. “If Russia stops fighting, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends.”
As President Biden did inBlinken declined to share details about how the United States would react to the use of nuclear weapons. He said, however, that the administration had a plan.
“Is this a plan that would prevent World War III? Pelley asked.
“President Biden has been determined that as we do everything we can to help Ukrainians defend themselves, as we do everything we can to rally other countries to put pressure on Russia, we are equally determined that this war doesn’t expand, not expand,” Blinken explained.
Meanwhile, a UN commission has found evidence of child rape and torture in Russian-occupied Ukraine. Blinken said he saw very clear evidence of war crimes first-hand when he visited Ukraine a few weeks ago.
“One of the places I visited was a town called Irpin,” Blinken said. “And I saw residential buildings, block after block, totally bombed. Wherever the Russian tide recedes, what remains in its wake is very clear evidence of atrocities and war crimes.”
“We are doing everything we can to support those trying to gather the evidence. And to investigate. And ultimately, to prosecute those responsible,” Blinken said.
Last Thursday, when the atrocities in Ukraine were presented to the UN Security Council, Russia’s foreign minister said they were staged and claimed Russia was a victim. Blinken responded to Lavrov’s claims in Pelley’s interview.
“It’s ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ It’s the world upside down. Up is down, white is black – truth is wrong,” Blinken said. “All of these words, all of these words ring utterly hollow for every member of the Security Council… So this spitting of words has no effect. On the contrary, I think it just shows the complete disconnect between Russia and the almost all of the rest of the world.”
Blinken said “elections” to force parts of Ukraine into the Russian Federation are a sham and would never be recognized. He also said there are currently no meaningful negotiations with Russia to end the war in Ukraine.
“There are no talks because Russia has shown no willingness at this time to engage in meaningful talks,” Blinken said. “If and when that changes, we will do everything we can to support a diplomatic process.”
For Blinken, Putin’s war in Ukraine has failed.
“What he said very clearly from the start was that his goal was to erase Ukraine’s identity as an independent country, which has already failed,” Blinken said. “The Ukrainians are fighting for their own land. They are fighting for their own country. The Russians are not. And these Russian soldiers who are thrown into this conflict, often not knowing where they are going or what they are doing- – it’s not something they want to fight for. Ukrainians are fighting for their own future. They are fighting for their own land. They are fighting for their own life.