Defense

Austin says he ‘does not’ believe Russian invasion will end in nuclear war

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin delivers his opening remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing held to examine the Department of Defense 2023 Fiscal Year budget and the Future Years Defense Program in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 7, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin affirmed on Tuesday he “does not” believe that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will result in a nuclear war despite remarks from Russia’s foreign minister that the threat of nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated.”

“I do not. And I certainly, you know, everyone that’s in this neighborhood, that’s a part of the international community, is going to do what it, you know, everything that’s necessary to make sure that that doesn’t happen,” Austin told Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin in an interview on Tuesday.

“Having said that, Ukraine has a right to protect itself. And we’re going to continue to support Ukraine,” he added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russian state media late Monday that the threat of nuclear war “is real. It should not be underestimated.”

Griffin asked Austin about Lavrov’s comments and how he would respond.

“What I think it is, Jen, is it’s dangerous. And any kind of a rhetoric like that, you know, I think is unhelpful,” Austin answered. 

“You know, we’ve said over and over again that a nuclear war cannot be won by either side. And so I think saber-rattling and rhetoric like that is just unhelpful. And so, again, hard to say what’s motivating Mr. Lavrov, but, again, I think that kind of talk should be avoided,” he continued.

The development comes as Ukrainian and top U.S. officials earlier this month indicated that the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine should not be taken lightly.

“Given the potential desperation of [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” CIA Director WIlliam Burns said at Georgia Tech

Tags Jennifer Griffin Lloyd Austin Sergey Lavrov

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