A former Army commander said, according to the Daily Mail, that the U.S. would deliver a "devastating strike" against Russia's military if the country's president, Vladimir Putin, attacked Ukraine with nuclear weapons.
Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges qualified that while a response from the U.S. "may not be nuclear," if Putin were to use such weapons against Ukraine, the U.S. could "destroy the Black Sea Fleet or destroy Russian bases in Crimea."
Hodges' comments come after the Russian leader sent shock waves around the world after he warned Wednesday in a speech that he was not bluffing about the use of nuclear weapons.
In his speech, Putin said that "representatives of the leading NATO states [have made statements] about the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction against Russia — nuclear weapons."
"To those who allow themselves to make such statements about Russia," Putin added, "I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for some components more modern than those of the NATO countries. And if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. It's not a bluff."
Despite Putin's comment, Hodges, who commanded the Army in Europe from 2014 to 2018, stressed that the possibility of Putin calling a nuclear strike on Ukraine was "very unlikely."
Still, Hodges maintained that any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a swift and severe response from President Joe Biden.
Putin ''knows the U.S. will have to respond if Russia uses a nuclear weapon," Hodges added. "The U.S. response may not be nuclear ... but could very well be a devastating strike that could, for example, destroy the Black Sea Fleet or destroy Russian bases in Crimea."
"So, I think President Putin and those around him will be reluctant to draw the U.S. into the conflict directly."
But in an interview with PBS this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Putin wants to end the war in Ukraine "as soon as possible."
Recalling his talks with Putin last week at a summit in Uzbekistan, Erdoğan said he "had very extensive discussions with him."
"He is actually showing me that he's willing to end this as soon as possible," the Turkish president added. "That was my impression, because the way things are going right now are quite problematic."
But shortly after Erdoğan's PBS interview, Putin, along with his warning of using nukes, also announced that 300,000 Russian military reservists would be conscripted into the war effort.
Preempting Putin's points last night, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday that a hybrid "mobilization" would not change anything.
"Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian land. Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say."
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