Putin’s nuclear alarm ‘totally unacceptable’: US

President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear warning represents a “totally unacceptable” escalation of the invasion of Ukraine, the United States said Sunday, when it accused the Russian leader of making threats to justify “further aggression”.

“This is a pattern we’ve seen from President Putin over the course of this conflict, producing threats that don’t exist to justify further aggression,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told ABC when asked about the announcement from Moscow.

A senior Pentagon official called the move “escalating” but declined to say whether US nuclear forces had changed stance in response.

Speaking to journalists, the defense official said the US had no reason to doubt the sincerity of Putin’s announcement, but had no information yet on how it would be carried out.

“We believe this is not only an unnecessary step for him to take, but an escalating one,” the official said, citing anonymity.

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“Unnecessarily, because Russia has never been threatened by the West, by NATO and certainly not by Ukraine,” the official said.

“And escalating because it clearly potentially brings forces into play that, if there’s a miscalculation, could make things much, much more dangerous.”

US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said she condemned Putin’s move in the strongest terms.

“It means President Putin continues to escalate this war in a way that is totally unacceptable,” Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview with CBS.

Moscow has the world’s second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and a huge stockpile of ballistic missiles that form the backbone of the country’s deterrent forces.

Putin said he was putting Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert because, he said, Western countries are taking “unfriendly” steps against his country in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday.

The US defense official declined to say whether US nuclear forces, the world’s largest, were on higher alert.

“We are not talking about the details of our strategic deterrence,” the official said.

“I just want to tell you that we remain confident in our ability to defend ourselves and our allies and our partners, and that includes strategic deterrence.”

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