President Joe Biden should emphasize de-escalating the war in Ukraine, but his speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week "probably infuriated" Russian President Vladimir Putin "and will cause him to dig in further," Fred Fleitz, the vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security, said Sunday on Newsmax.
"Biden should be emphasizing de-escalating and a cease-fire and nobody wants to talk about that because we don't want to see Ukraine making concessions," Fleitz told Newsmax's "Wake Up America." "But when a megalomaniac threatens to use nuclear weapons, we have to take that seriously. We cannot let that happen. We can't allow a situation to develop where this madman decides to go down that road."
Pushing Putin to the point where he would consider the use of nuclear weapons is not the answer, Fleitz said, but he's "worried that's where we're going."
Fleitz, a Newsmax contributor and former chief of staff to the National Security Council, said he found Biden's speech "disappointing."
"We know that as president of the United States he had to speak out on the war, Ukraine, and the things Putin is saying, but this over-the-top series of condemnations, this diatribe against Putin, this was not helpful right now," said Fleitz. "This isn't going to convince Putin to do anything."
Instead, Biden's speech was made while he was "compensating for his weak foreign policy and his weak leadership," said Fleitz. "He wanted to act tough on the world stage … what we need now is an effort to de-escalate to get Putin to the bargaining table, not to engage in name-calling."
Meanwhile, nobody knows how the United States would respond if Putin does deploy a nuclear weapon, said Fleitz.
"Tactical nuclear weapons are part of Russian military doctrine," he said. "We don't have weapons like that, or maybe we have a couple of hundred. They have thousands of them to be used on the battlefield."
During the Trump administration, work was being done to develop such weapons through the defense budget, Fleitz added, but he believes the current White House is working to withdraw that funding.
"It worries me that once Putin crosses the line to use one of these weapons, he may use more of them," said Fleitz. "It also will open the floodgates for other nations to think that tactical nukes are OK on the battlefield, and you can be sure that China will be watching that."
Fleitz also spoke out about the administration's push on climate change, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken's complaints last week that Putin's invasion of Ukraine is "distracting" the United Nation from "working on the serious issues that we all want to focus on like preventing a climate catastrophe."
"It's just mind-boggling, the insane things we hear people from this administration saying," Fleitz responded. "Climate change is not a top national security threat. The fact that they think the conflict in Ukraine is distracting them from climate change just goes to show why our national security is in such trouble right now, and it's why we've lost so much prestige on the world stage."
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