Retired Gen. David Petraeus predicted Sunday that the U.S., along with NATO allies, would "take out" Russian forces if Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to use nuclear weapons in his war against neighboring Ukraine.
During an appearance on ABC's "This Week," Petraeus told co-anchor Jonathan Karl that western powers have to take Russia's nuclear weapons threats seriously, noting National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan's recent remarks that US officials have warned the Moscow of "catastrophic consequences" if the Kremlin deploys nuclear weapons.
"And what would happen?" Karl asked.
"Well, again, I have deliberately not talked to Jake about this. I mean, just to give you a hypothetical, we would respond by leading a NATO, a collective effort, that would take out every Russian conventional force that we can see and identify on the battlefield in Ukraine and also in Crimea and every ship in the Black Sea," Petraeus replied.
Karl noted radiation from a nuclear attack in Ukraine would also likely reach nearby NATO countries, effectively making it an attack on the alliance.
"Yes. And perhaps you can make that case. The other case is that this is so horrific that there has to be a response, it cannot go unanswered. But it doesn't expand, it doesn't - it's not nuclear for nuclear," Petraeus added. "You don't want to, again, get into a nuclear escalation here. But you have to show that this cannot be accepted in any way."
Petraeus' remarks come after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday moved ahead with illegally annexing four regions of eastern and southern Ukraine, a move that followed a series of setbacks for Russian forces as the war enters its eighth month.
Putin has also declared a partial military troop mobilization that could call up as many as 300,000 reservists.
Russia is also suspected of causing a pipeline rupture that caused a massive methane leak, and Putin has threatened to cut off gas supplies to European countries as winter approaches.
Petraeus said it's clear that Putin wants European countries to suffer as long as they try to isolate Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
"Well, he's trying to cast this in any way that he can in a way to appear threatening, to be threatening, to try to get Europe to crack. He thinks he can out suffer Europe, if you will," Petraeus said.
"And, you know, the Russians have out suffered Napoleon and the Nazis and so forth. But I don't think he's going to out suffer Europe. Europe's going to have a tough winter, there's going to be very reduced flow of natural gas, but they'll get through it and I don't think they'll crack on the issue of support for Ukraine."
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