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U.S. officials warn of "catastrophic consequences" if Putin's forces use nuclear weapons

Washington has privately warned Moscow of "catastrophic" consequences if Russian President Vladimir Putin instructs his military to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, top U.S. officials said in interviews broadcast Sunday.

Driving the news: Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan made the comments after Kremlin officials doubled down on the veiled nuclear threat Putin made in announcing the mobilization of some 300,000 reservists last week.

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a news conference Saturday after addressing the UN General Assembly the Kremlin has "a doctrine for nuclear security which is an open document."

What they're saying: "We have been very clear with the Russians publicly, and, as well as privately, to stop the loose talk about nuclear weapons," Blinken told CBS News' "60 Minutes."

  • "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," Blinken said.
  • Blinken added that he wouldn't "get into what the consequences would be" for the Kremlin, but the Biden administration had a plan for such an event and he noted that "any nuclear weapons would have catastrophic effects" for the country using them and others.

Meanwhile, Sullivan said during three separate interviews on Sunday that U.S. officials had warned their Moscow counterparts of "catastrophic consequences" if Putin's forces were to use nuclear arms in Ukraine.

  • Sullivan told ABC, NBC and CBS News Sunday American officials told them the U.S. "will respond decisively" to such action.
  • "In private channels we have spelled out in greater detail exactly what that would mean," he added in his interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Worth noting: Sullivan said during his interview on CBS' "Face The Nation" that "Putin's been waving around the nuclear card at various points through this conflict," but stressed it's "a matter that we have to take deadly seriously because it is a matter of paramount seriousness."

The big picture: The ramped-up nuclear rhetoric by Russian officials comes after several significant losses on the battlefield in Ukraine this month.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced in his nightly address Sunday "positive results in several directions" as fighting took place in Russian-controlled areas in the regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia.

The bottom line: Sullivan noted to ABC's "This Week" the "sham referenda" taking place in Ukrainian areas controlled by the Russian military underscored that "Russia and Putin are struggling badly."

  • Blinken said during his "60 Minutes" interview that Putin has "already lost in terms of what he was trying to achieve." Given "his objective was to erase Ukraine's identity as an independent country, that has already failed," he said.

Go deeper: Zelensky: Putin's mobilization is admission that Russia is struggling

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