Michael McFaul, former, U.S. Ambassador, says Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to frighten the West by threatening to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
His comments came during a Thursday interview with NBC News.
He was asked if Putin is trying to rattle France, Germany, and other European countries.
"You're absolutely right, he's trying to scare the West, McFaul said. "When he talks about nuclear weapons and the threat of using them, that's actually deterrence saying "If you escalate I will respond.' And it's working, let's be honest. He has deterred the West. He's deterred NATO from providing certain kinds of military assistance to the Ukrainians because of that fear of escalation."
Still, McFaul said he is pleased with the unity NATO nations have shown during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"I'm impressed by the unity of NATO so far, not the disunity," he said.
McFaul maintained it is time to engage Russia in talks on nuclear arms agreement.
"It's a tough call," he said. "I think it's in America's national security interest to have an arms control regime in place extending the new treaty than to not have it in place. So, you just have to think what is in our interests.
"And our interests are caps on their nuclear weapons and the ability to inspect where those weapons are. To gather intelligence about Russia's nuclear arsenal – I think that's in America's national interest and we should have that negotiation. But we should not allow the Russians to link that negotiation to any other issue."
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had said on Sunday that the United States would respond decisively to any Russian use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine, Reuters reported.
And he cautioned Moscow of the "catastrophic consequences" it would face.
Sullivan's warning came after Putin made a thinly veiled nuclear threat in a speech in which the Russian president also announced his country's first wartime military mobilization since World War II.
"If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia. The United States will respond decisively," Sullivan said.
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