(NewsNation) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to Saturday’s bridge bombing was his first public comment since President Joe Biden told a group of Democratic supporters that the threat of Putin ordering the use of a nuclear weapon is real.
Putin on Sunday called the attack on the sprawling Kerch Bridge to Crimea “a terrorist act” carried out by Ukrainian special service.
“There is no doubt that this is an act of terrorism aimed at destroying Russia’s critically important civilian infrastructure,” Putin said.
The bridge is the only physical connection between Russia and Crimea, which was part of Ukraine until 2014 when Putin annexed it by force.
It’s also an important supply route for the Russian military to funnel weapons and supplies into Ukraine.
The bridge bombing is just the latest in a series of setbacks for Russia.
Ukraine’s latest offensive has regained thousands of kilometers of territory back from Russia.
The Russian military is reporting shortages of supplies, low moral, and has fled multiple strategic cities and towns in retreat.
It’s clear the Russian military has its back against the wall. That is why some say threats from Putin to use nuclear force at this particular moment are so serious.
Biden declared that the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” is at the highest level since the Cuban Missile Crisis,” adding its the “first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have a direct threat of the use nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path they are going.”
Admiral John Kirby says Biden’s rhetoric and using the term “armageddon” was appropriate.
“The president was reflecting the very high stakes that are in play right now,” he said. “When you have a modern nuclear power and the leader of that modern nuclear power willing to use irresponsible rhetoric the way Vladimir Putin has, several times in just the last week or two.”
Putin’s remarks come as fighting and shelling continue in Ukraine.
Russian planes fired 12 rockets into a residential area of Zaporizhzhia, killing 13 people and injuring more than 50.
Ukraine’s defense minister made a plea to Russian soldiers to drop their weapons and abandon their posts, asking them, how do you want to be remembered?
“You can still save Russia from tragedy, and the Russian army from humiliation,” he added. “But time is running out.”
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called Biden’s comments “clearly an overstatement.”
“The statement of calling it an Armageddon scares people and in some ways undermines our own deterrent capability,” Esper said. “There are so many differences between the situation now and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.”
“Back then it was the United States versus the USSR head-on. Back then we had conventional forces threatening one another. Back then we had armed nuclear B-52s in the skies prepared to strike if necessary,” he continued. “That was their Armageddon. We’re not near that.”
Esper says Biden’s comments are unnecessarily scaring people and could work to undermine the United State’s position.
“It’s not just the United States, but the NATO allies,” he said. “What it does is it may signal to Putin that, that we’re being intimidated, and therefore less likely to support the Ukrainians or do what needs to be done, if he just continues to ratchet up that type of rhetoric.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin said he is not convinced Putin is going to turn to his nuclear arsenal anytime soon.
“I don’t think it’s very likely at this point Putin will use a nuclear weapon, even a tactical nuclear weapon, and the reason is he’s gone too far into this war now and the war is over if he does that because I believe the response from NATO will not be a nuclear response,” Boykin said. “It will be an all-out conventional response that will bomb every target in the Ukraine that has any association with his army or his military on the ground in there. They will destroy him.”