UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace discusses Ukraine in US visit

Talks come amid increasing concerns over Russia's threats to use nuclear weapons in conflict

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is in Washington as Russian threats towards Ukraine persist. AP
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Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is visiting Washington this week as the war in Ukraine continues to escalate.

He has met National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss sending Kyiv additional security assistance, as Russia steps up missile strikes against the Ukrainian capital and as Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens nuclear war.

“They discussed ongoing efforts to support Ukraine, including through the provision of security assistance, and the importance of transatlantic co-operation and regional security in light of Russia’s continued brutal attack on Ukraine,” the Pentagon said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Both Washington and London have enacted sweeping sanctions on Russia while also rushing aid and weapons into Ukraine, with the US sending $17.6 billion in assistance since Russia's February 24 invasion.

Mr Putin last month suggested that he is ready to resort to using nuclear weapons to protect Russian territory. Paired with Moscow's internationally rejected referendums used to justify annexing four Ukrainian territories, those threats are becoming increasingly high risk.

The Russian leader declared martial law in the annexed territories on Wednesday, which could involve restrictions on travel and public gatherings, tighter censorship and sweeping authorities for security forces.

“We are completely ready,” Brig Gen Patrick Ryder, spokesman for the Pentagon, said on Tuesday when asked if Washington was prepared for a nuclear scenario in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, calling Mr Putin's threats “reckless.”

Mr Putin's nuclear threats are “irresponsible, particularly given the security situation in that region of the world and elsewhere”.

“And so. it's something that we'll continue to keep a close eye on in the meantime. We have not seen anything that would indicate that Russia has made a decision to employ nuclear weapons,” he added.

The US Defence Intelligence Agency’s Worldwide Threat Assessment in 2021 stated that Russia probably possesses 1,000 to 2,000 nonstrategic nuclear warheads.

Updated: October 19, 2022, 3:50 PM