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U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin delivers remarks at the Halifax International Security Forum on Nov.19, 2022.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin warned a Halifax security forum on Saturday that other authoritarian states may be prompted to emulate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s playbook by acquiring nuclear weapons to give themselves a greater ability to manoeuvre.

That, he cautioned, could trigger other countries in turn to acquire their own nuclear-warfare capacity.

“Putin’s fellow autocrats are watching. And they could well conclude that getting nuclear weapons would give them a hunting license of their own,” Mr. Austin told the Halifax International Security Forum.

“And that could drive a dangerous spiral of nuclear proliferation. Putin’s war of choice shows the whole world the dangers of disorder.”

Mr. Austin also said Mr. Putin may resume threats of nuclear attack as Moscow’s military failures in Ukraine pile up.

“As Russia’s position on the battlefield erodes, Putin may resort again to profoundly irresponsible nuclear sabre-rattling,” he said.

The Halifax International Security Forum is a gathering of Canadian, American and European leaders as well as military and security experts from NATO and its allies.