WASHINGTON (AFP) – In rallying global arms supplies and asking Congress for US$33 billion (S$46 billion) more to support Ukraine, Washington is choosing to ignore Mr Vladimir Putin’s threats to use nuclear arms, and instead is openly testing the Russian leader’s limits.
After the United States brought 40 countries to a US base in Germany last week to discuss aid for Ukraine’s war with Russia, Mr Putin on Wednesday (April 27) threatened a “lightning fast” response if there is any direct intervention by outsiders on Kyiv’s behalf.
“We have all the tools for this, that no one else can boast of having. We won’t boast about it: We’ll use them, if needed,” Mr Putin said.
It was a thinly veiled reference to Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons, which Russian military doctrine holds can be used to force an adversary to retreat.
Rather than pull back at that threat to unleash Moscow’s nuclear bombs, US President Joe Biden doubled down on US support for Ukraine.
The US$33 billion he requested includes US$20 billion for arms and munitions, nearly seven times the amount sent to the country since the Russians invaded on Feb 24.
Early in the war Washington worried that aggressively equipping Ukraine’s army with anything but “defensive” weaponry risked embroiling the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) in a direct conflict with Russia.
Now, the Pentagon has shed those earlier inhibitions and is shipping offensive weapons like heavy artillery, helicopters and attack drones.
Rather than hiding it, the Pentagon also began openly talking this week about how it is training Ukrainian troops, including inside Germany, to use the weapons they are receiving.
And instead of saying, as it did in February, that it wants only to help Ukraine survive, Washington now says its goal in the war is to debilitate Russia for the long term.
“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,” US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said after a visit to Kyiv last week.
Inside the US government, Mr Putin’s nuclear threat is being shrugged off.