Russian President Vladimir Putin's latest threat to use nuclear weapons will not stop or slow the United States' efforts to aid Ukraine's military in its fight against the Russian invasion, the Pentagon said Thursday.
"In terms of the statements or the announcements coming out of Russia, it does not affect the commitment to continue working closely with our international partners and our allies on providing Ukraine with the support that it needs in their fight to defend their country,'' Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters, according to a report at The Hill.
In a nationally televised speech on Wednesday, Putin addressed Western allies that are backing Ukraine while also announcing to his country the largest mobilization of reservists since World War II.
"The territorial integrity of our homeland, our independence and freedom will be ensured, I will emphasize this again, with all the means at our disposal," Putin said. "And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction."
''I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and some components are more modern than those of the NATO countries," he said, adding, "This is not a bluff."
It was an apparent reference to those in the West who described his earlier nuclear threats as a blustery attempt to weaken international support for Ukraine.
Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman, said talks with Ukraine about what it needs will continue, and "we'll continue to think through not only what they need in the medium to long term, but also what they need now," including winter gear in the coming months. "I don't see those conversations being impacted by this situation."
Russian military doctrine envisages the use of atomic weapons in response to a nuclear attack or aggression involving conventional weapons that ''threatens the very existence of the state,'' vague wording that offers ample room for interpretation.
In his brief speech, Putin accused the U.S. and its allies of arming and training Ukraine's military and encouraging Kyiv to attack Russian territory. He seemed to push the threshold for using nuclear weapons even lower.
''In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly use all means available to us,'' he said.
In recent weeks, Russian officials have repeatedly warned Washington that supplies of longer-range missiles to Ukraine would effectively make the U.S. a party to the conflict.
U.S.-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers and other Western weapons played an important role in the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region that represented Moscow's biggest military defeat since it was forced to withdraw its troops from Kyiv after a botched attempt to seize the Ukrainian capital early in the war.
It raised the prospect of more battlefield successes for Ukraine, which has vowed to reclaim control over all Russian-occupied territories, including the Crimean Peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014.
Ukraine's success has been a humiliating blow to Putin, who has cast the campaign as a ''special military operation'' and has tried to win it with a limited contingent of volunteer troops. Western estimates put Russia's invading force at about 200,000 at the start of the war, and it has suffered heavy losses in seven months of fighting. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace recently put Russian losses at over 25,000 dead.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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