On Tuesday journalist Glenn Greenwald warned, "Whatever your views on the moral dimensions of this war, it's hard to deny this is the most dangerous moment in US foreign policy in two decades. Every week, US/NATO involvement in the war intensifies, as Russia explicitly warns of nuclear war. For what?"
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday in his most alarming comments yet on the Ukraine war warned there is now "considerable" risk of armed conflict spreading beyond Ukraine's borders. He blasted NATO's ramped up arms shipments to Kiev as part of its "proxy war" against Moscow, warning further that the possibility of a lead-up to nuclear war "should not be underestimated."
"The risks now are considerable," Lavrov said of the possibility for nuclear conflict, according to a Russian foreign ministry transcript. "The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it," he added. "NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war."
This kind of maximalist talk out of Moscow of the worst-case scenario appears to have completely undeterred Washington or its allies. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the same day promised Ukraine's government to "keep moving heaven and earth" to ensure its Ukrainian military has whatever it needs to take on the invading Russian forces.
"My Ukrainian friends: We know the burden that you all carry and we know, and you should know that all of us have your back," Austin said.
And on Tuesday, responding specifically to the now widespread reports of Lavrov's 'nuclear warning' - Austin called this talk "dangerous and unhelpful". He further suggested it's mere "bluster":
“Rattling of sabers and dangerous rhetoric is clearly unhelpful and something that we won’t engage in,” Austin told reporters at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, after hosting the first of what what will become a regular meeting of allied and partner countries known now as the Ukraine Defense Consultative Group in support of the embattled former Soviet state.
“Any bluster about the possible use of nuclear weapons is dangerous and unhelpful,” Austin said later. “Nobody wants to see a nuclear war, and nobody can win that.”
Asked today at a press conference in Germany if he is not afraid of a nuclear war and the spread of the war beyond #Ukraine, US Secreatary of Defense Lloyd Austin called "the speculations". as he said, about the use of nuclear weapons "unhealthy” and “dangerous”, a “bluster. ” pic.twitter.com/SRdwXWlOZa— Suzana Starikov (@Intetyst) April 26, 2022
The day prior the Pentagon chief had said the US wants to see a "weakened" Russia due to its Ukraine war. "We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine," Austin said at a news conference just after traveling to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Meanwhile, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby was also asked about Lavrov's nuclear rhetoric, responding that “It’s obviously unhelpful, not constructive, and certainly is not indicative of what a responsible [world power] ought to be doing in the public sphere."
Virtually every week, Biden announces new massive aid of cash and weapons to Ukraine. Every week, US/NATO announce greater involvement that, weeks earlier, was deemed unthinkable. It's a full-on proxy war. The risks are mind-boggling. What is being achieved that warrants this? pic.twitter.com/V2cQoFcvca— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 26, 2022
Kirby said further according to Reuters, “A nuclear war cannot be won and it shouldn’t be fought. There’s no reason for the current conflict in Ukraine to get to that level at all.”
Interestingly, it seems the Russian side would agree, and appeared to dabble in rhetoric of nuclear warnings as a way to stave off such a nuclear-armed showdown. But ominously, it seems both sides also agree they are inching toward this almost unimaginable scenario.