Lloyd Austin warns Putin could launch nuclear strike – but says Russian leader hasn’t made up his mind yet: Rejects fears of ‘imminent invasion’ of Taiwan by China
- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Vladimir Putin’s veiled nuclear threats are ‘irresponsible’ after he signed a decree illegally annexing parts of Ukraine
- “This rattle of the nuclear saber is not the kind of thing we would expect to hear from leaders of large countries with capacity,” Austin said.
- Pentagon head also called Russia annexation a ‘sham’ and ‘fiction’
- Austin also predicted that China would use House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan to create a ‘new normal’ on the world stage
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats as “saber rattles” but condemned the autocrat for continuing to disrupt world order in a Sunday morning interview.
“There are no controls on Mr Putin. Just as he made the irresponsible decision to invade Ukraine, you know, he could make a different decision,” Austin told Fareed Zakaria GPS.
“But I don’t see anything right now that would lead me to believe he made such a decision.”
The Pentagon chief also downplayed another foreign threat on the horizon when he told CNN that an “imminent invasion” of Taiwan by China is unlikely.
The interview comes more than seven months after Putin launched his bloody invasion of Ukraine, and just days after he signed a decree to illegally annex parts of the former Soviet state.
Videos appeared to show Russian troops forcing Ukrainian civilians at gunpoint to the polls to vote on whether or not to join Moscow’s jurisdiction.
“As you have heard us say, this referendum is a sham. It’s fiction. And we will never respect their illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory, nor will most of the international community,” Austin said on Sunday.
While signing the decree, Putin also condemned the “satanic” West and pledged to use all of the Kremlin’s power to protect Russia’s new territory — in what was widely seen as a nuclear threat.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threat is ‘irresponsible’ but predicted the autocrat was unlikely to press ahead
He also condemned Putin’s illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine that followed a referendum Austin called a “sham.”
Austin called Putin’s words “irresponsible.”
“This rattle of the nuclear saber is not the kind of thing we would expect to hear from leaders of large countries with capacity,” the Pentagon chief said.
Austin also said China is using the US’s multiple congressional delegations to Taiwan to create a ‘new normal’
He acknowledged high-level talks between Washington and Moscow on the matter, but Austin said he has not spoken to his Russian counterpart “in recent days.”
“I addressed this issue and warned against going down this road and engaging in this kind of irresponsible behavior,” Austin said.
“So, yes, I’ve personally done that in the past, but haven’t spoken to him lately.”
Austin was also asked about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in the summer and the high tensions it caused with Beijing.
But the defense secretary said he agreed with other global experts’ assessments that the explosive period had subsided.
However, he believes that China has since used Pelosi’s visit and the many congressional delegations to rearrange the world stage.
‘I don’t see an imminent invasion either. What we do see is that China is moving towards establishing what we would call a new normal,” Austin explained.
“Increased activity: We saw some centerline crossings of the Taiwan Strait by their aircraft, and that number has increased over time. We’ve seen more activity with their surface ships in the waters in and around Taiwan.”
He added: “So I think China has seized the opportunity of the congressional delegation’s visit to try to create a new normal.”