The U.S. State Department has publicly and privately told Russian officials that using nuclear weapons in the conflict with Ukraine would have “catastrophic effects,” two high-level White House members said this weekend.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday the U.S. is in contact with the Kremlin and has warned about the consequences of a nuclear strike.

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested a potential use of “weapons of mass destruction” when he ordered a mobilization of 300,000 reservists to boost his troops in Ukraine.

“We have been very clear with the Russians publicly, and, as well as privately, to stop the loose talk about nuclear weapons,” Blinken said. “It’s very important that Moscow hear from us and know from us that the consequences would be horrific. And we’ve made that very clear.”


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In another interview, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan used similar wording to describe the American position. He told CBS’s Face The Nation the U.S. communicated “at very high-levels” the consequences of a nuclear war.

“We have communicated directly, privately, at very high levels to the Kremlin, that any use of nuclear weapons will be met with catastrophic consequences for Russia,” Sullivan said. “The United States and our allies will respond decisively. We have been clear and specific about what that will entail.”

Sullivan also condemned Russia’s attempted annexation of four areas in East Ukraine by holding what the West is calling “sham referenda” on whether residents want to be governed by Moscow. The voting process, set to end on Tuesday, has no foundation on Ukrainian or international law.

Putin is expected to declare later this week that the areas have been annexed by Russia.

“We will not recognize the sham referenda, they in no way represent the will of Ukrainian people. And we will treat this territory for what it is, Ukrainian territory, not Russian territory,” Sullivan said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Face the Nation that Putin’s threats on using nuclear weapons should not be seen as a gambit.

“I don’t think he’s bluffing,” he said. “I think the world is deterring it and containing this threat. We need to keep putting pressure on him and not allow him to continue.”

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