The US will retaliate forcefully if Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine, President Joe Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told CBS on Sunday. He also declared that the referendums in the Donbass republics and Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions of Ukraine had not altered Washington’s support for Kiev.
“Any use of nuclear weapons will be met with catastrophic consequences for Russia,” Sullivan said on the network’s Face the Nation program, explaining that the Biden administration had told Moscow both privately at “very high levels” and publicly that “the United States and our allies will respond decisively if Russia uses nuclear weapons.”
Sullivan also revealed that Washington was keeping “a close eye” on the Zaporozhye nuclear plant. In order to lessen the chance of a catastrophic incident, the facility has been placed in cold shutdown in response to constant shelling that both sides blame on each other.
However, the plant is still operating. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which visited the site earlier this month, identified an “urgent need for interim measures to prevent a nuclear accident,” specifically the “immediate establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone.” The IAEA, however, failed to mention the culprit behind the attacks, despite Russia providing evidence that pointed to the Ukrainian side.
The US and its allies have condemned the referendums, which are still underway, as “illegitimate,” vowing not to recognize the results because the votes “in no way respect democratic norms,” despite international observers from several countries volunteering to come to the regions to verify the vote.
The Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics declared their independence in 2014 and were recognized as independent states by Russia in February 2022, eight years after initially voting for self-rule in landslide referendums following the US-backed coup in Kiev. Most of Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions have been under Russian control since March.