United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield is welcomed to Ukraine by Oleksandr Kubrakov, Minister of Infrastructure United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield is welcomed to Ukraine by Oleksandr Kubrakov, Minister of Infrastructure  (AFP or licensors)

U.S. talks with Russia over nuclear escalation

The United States says it has talked with high-level Russian officials to prevent the armed conflict in Ukraine from escalating into nuclear warfare. Tuesday's announcement comes after Ukraine said it would not negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin after reports that Washington asked Kyiv to signal it is open to peace talks.

By Stefan J. Bos

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed that Washington and Moscow had held talks amid concerns Russia may use nuclear weapons after its army suffered significant losses on Ukraine's battlefields.

Sullivan suggested that he was leading meetings with Russia to prevent a nuclear escalation of the war in Ukraine. He said the administration of President Joe Biden has had "the opportunity to engage, at senior levels, with the Russians to communicate, reduce risk, and convey the consequences of the potential use of nuclear weapons. We have not described the channels that we have done in order to protect those channels."

However, Sullivan revealed, "We have been very clear and very direct about how the United States would approach the potential use of nuclear weapons."

Sullivan has reportedly held confidential discussions with his Russian counterpart, Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev, and senior Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov over the past several months.

The talks occurred after Russian President Vladimir Putin did not completely rule out using nuclear weapons if the territories Moscow annexed from Ukraine were attacked.

Russia also warned that the accelerated deployment of modernized U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe next month could lower the "nuclear threshold" for an outbreak of atomic warfare.

With the war in Ukraine intensifying, the United States reportedly told a closed meeting of the NATO military alliance that it would speed up the European deployment of a modernized version of the B61 nuclear bomb, the B61-12. As a result, about 100 of these B61 devices are at bases in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, and the Netherlands, which will be replaced by the newer B61-12 nuclear bombs in December, months earlier than planned.

Russia's response 

In response, Russia has made clear it will place missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in neighboring Belarus in the coming months. It also said the Baltic region couldn't remain nuclear-free.

The Baltic nation of Lithuania claims Russia already keeps nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad; the Russian enclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

Worries about possible nuclear warfare in Europe have grown as Kyiv made clear it does not want to hold peace talks with Russian President Putin as long as his troops remain on Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine also claims it is winning the war after recapturing territory. Yet, U.S. officials have privately urged Kyiv to remain open for peace talks to end an armed conflict that has already killed tens of thousands of people.

Washington is reportedly also concerned about "Ukraine fatigue" among allies who suffer from food and energy price hikes that are in part related to the ongoing war.

Ukraine is heavily dependent on Western military and financial support.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos

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08 November 2022, 17:21