Victoria Nuland said Ukraine will not be left alone if Russia uses tactical nuclear weapons.
Russia will pay an astronomical price if President Vladimir Putin orders the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said on Friday.
In an interview for Ukrainian news agency European Pravda, Nuland was asked to assess the possibility of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons. She stated that she could not rule out such a catastrophic scenario. As Putin has already ordered what she said were brutal war crimes, the world must be prepared for the worst. At the same time, Nuland stressed that the consequences of such actions would be catastrophic for Russia and Putin personally.
She refused to give any details about the possible response from the West, saying instead that the use of nuclear weapons would take the situation to a fundamentally new level where the price will be simply astronomical. Asked if Kiev can rely on its Western partners in a worst-case scenario, Nuland assured Ukraine that it would not be left alone. The Under Secretary of State said that the US would continue to provide Ukraine with military assistance. She stated that Washington has begun supplying Kiev with multiple launch rocket systems MLRS and would do its best to keep up with Ukraine's needs.
Nuland warned just two days after the Pentagon said it does not see a need to change the country's nuclear posture. The US Department of Defense spokesman said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow could use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Many observers interpreted this as a threat to use nuclear weapons.
Russia put its nuclear deterrence at the highest alert level in the early days of the military operation, citing allegedly hostile signals coming from NATO members.
Russia attacked its neighbor after Ukraine s failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Moscow s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied that it was planning to retake the two republics by force.