Sen. Lindsey Graham warned Russia that using nuclear weapons in Ukraine would provoke a massive retaliation from NATO
Any Russian use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would be the equivalent of an attack on "NATO itself," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham declared on Thursday, adding it would be met with a "catastrophic" response.
Speaking during a joint press conference with Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Graham noted that in such an attack the radiation "would not be confined to Ukraine, you would be irradiating parts of Europe that are under the NATO banner."
"If that day ever comes - and I hope and pray it doesn't - [a nuclear strike] should be considered by NATO writ large and the United States as an attack by Russia on NATO itself," he said.
If Russian President Vladimir Putin did use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the US and its allies would have to devise an "overwhelming" response that would be "catastrophic" for Moscow, Graham said.
Graham and Blumenthal called the press conference to unveil legislation blocking foreign aid to any country recognizing the results of the referendums in Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye, and Kherson, regions formerly part of Ukraine that earlier this week voted overwhelmingly to become part of Russia.
The US and its allies have refused to recognize the results, while Ukraine has vowed to retake all lost territory, including that of Crimea, which voted to join Russia in 2014 following the US-backed coup in Kiev.
While Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky admitted as recently as March that Kiev was unlikely to become part of NATO, he announced on Friday that the country is reportedly filing an expedited application to join the military alliance.
Andrey Yermak, head of the President's Office for Ukraine, and former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen earlier this month unveiled a proposal for a 'Kiev Security Compact', a NATO-style agreement demanding "security guarantees" in the form of hefty financial and military aid commitments from Western guarantor states.
The compact, which would be "legally and politically binding," explicitly obliges the US and Europe to defend Ukraine "in case of aggression," potentially putting them in direct conflict with Russia.
Putin vowed earlier this month that Russia would use "all the means" at its disposal to defend itself in a scenario where its territorial integrity was threatened.