U.S. officials acknowledged Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s escalation of the war in Ukraine over the weekend after Putin illegally moved to annex four regions of Ukraine under heavy criticism from the rest of the world.

“There are no checks on Mr. Putin,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said of the possibility of nuclear war during an appearance on CNN Sunday morning. “Just as he made the irresponsible decision to invade Ukraine, you know, he could make another decision. But I don’t see anything right now that would lead me to believe he has made such a decision.”

Austin said that currently, there is no indication that Putin has made a definite decision to deploy nuclear weapons, and the U.S. will stand by Ukraine regardless of Putin’s next moves.

Putin vowed last week that Russia will “defend our land with all means. People living in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson region, and Zaporizhzhia region are becoming our citizens forever.”

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The move comes after he announced late last month his decision to mobilize 300,000 reservists in an action the country has not taken since World War II.

In his speech, Putin went on to call the West “satanic” and “racist.”

Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky responded to the speech by official applying to join NATO to “protect our entire community.”

“We are de facto allies,” Zelensky said in a statement. “This has already been achieved. De facto, we have already completed our path to NATO. De facto, we have already proven interoperability with the Alliance’s standards, they are real for Ukraine – real on the battlefield and in all aspects of our interaction.”

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