Putin Unlikely to Use Nukes in Ukraine, Pentagon Says

A top Defense official made the comment after Russia's latest aggressive rhetoric on the use of nuclear weapons.
​The Pentagon says it does not believe Putin will use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
The Pentagon says it does not believe Putin will use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Photos via Getty Images and Wikimedia. 

Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s scary rhetoric threatening nuclear strikes in Ukraine, the Pentagon doesn’t believe the Kremlin would actually do it. 

Speaking at an oversight hearing on American military support for Ukraine of the House Armed Services Committee, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl poured doubts over the possibility that Putin had the audacity to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. 


“The good news is,” he said, “I don't think they're likely to do so.”

Kahl, a top policymaker in the Department of Defense, made it clear that the entire U.S. government, from the White House, to intelligence agencies, to Secretary of Defense Loyd Austin III, have warned their Russian counterparts that the use of nuclear weapons against Kyiv is their uncrossable red line. 

“Any use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, on any scale would be considered a world changing event that would bring about severe consequences far in excess of anything the Russians have experienced to date,” he said. “A lot of the restraints we've been operating under would no longer [continue] in a world where Russia crossed that threshold.”

Kahl, who said he would speak in more detail to members in a classified intelligence version of the hearing later Tuesday, was confident Russia wouldn’t use nuclear capable weapons in its war in Ukraine.

Though the Pentagon has taken the threat of the Kremlin deploying nuclear weapons in Ukraine very seriously, and is likely to continue to do so, the news comes a day after former Russian president Dmitriy Medvedev made more threats prophesying nuclear war.

Medvedev told Russian media that continued arms transfers to Kyiv could lead to “apocalypse” and “a collapse,” in another bid to deter NATO and its support for President Volodomyr Zelenskyy’s government. Last week, Russia paused its participation in the New START treaty, which is an Obama-era nuclear arms pact with the U.S. that limited the amount of active nukes either country could maintain, to go along with annual, mutual inspections.  

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Kremlin has threatened nuclear Armageddon. Threats have ranged from a nuclear missile attack on London, to the use of tactical nukes with smaller payloads (some launched from artillery cannons) wiping out targets like Ukrainian bases.