Biden Brings More Troops And Sanctions To Nato Amid Rising Fears Of Russian Chemical Warfare

  • Posted on March 24, 2022
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WASHINGTON —  President Joe Biden landed in Brussels on Wednesday for urgent meetings this week with members of NATO, the G-7 and the European Union as the continent reels from Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine that’s shattered 70 years of relative peace and security in the region. As the Kremlin wages its medieval siege war inside Ukraine, just outside the border, more than 35 countries have come together to help tip the scales in favor of Kyiv — the largest voluntary coalition in the history of modern warfare. Missiles, helicopters, Humvees, ammunition, body armor, intelligence reports, money and humanitarian aid are all flowing into Ukraine, where they are having a tangible impact on the course of the conflict.Thursday’s meetings in Brussels will bring together the world’s most powerful military alliance for an “extraordinary summit” where leaders will decide on troops, sanctions and other measures designed to aid war-torn Ukraine and to bring Russian President Vladimir Putin to his knees.The next phase of the warThree pressing threats loom large over the summit, requiring the alliance to figure out its response and whether military intervention would be needed: mistaken fire on an allied nation, cyber attacks to critical infrastructure of a NATO member state and the possibility of chemical or biological warfare within Ukraine, according to experts. NATO leaders are also expected to announce more humanitarian aid to Ukraine, particularly the embattled port city of Mariupol, a fresh round of sanctions and new pressure on Moscow’s energy sector.As the war nears its second month and Russia’s battle deaths soar past 7,000 with almost nothing to show for them, experts say it’s becoming inevitable that Moscow will try new ways to hit back at Kyiv and its backers — both within Ukraine and beyond its frontiers.Inside Ukraine, the possibility that a desperate Putin could resort to weapons of mass destruction is one of the things that keeps security experts up at night. So does the prospect of a deadlier repeat of last month’s indiscriminate Russian attack on the nuclear reactors at Chornobyl and Zaporizhzhia, where soldiers fired at a reactor that was thankfully offline. If Russia had fired on one of the reactors that happened to be online, “that would have caused a nuclear disaster, and we’d basically be looking at trying to evacuate a quarter of Europe — maybe a half of Europe — depending on the wind,” said Scheherazade Rehman, director of the European Union Research Center at George Washington University.While international nuclear regulators have said the plants are stable and aren’t leaking radiation, the prospect of renewed fighting near them has scientists and European leaders on edge.Weapons of mass destructionFrustrated with his slow progress in Ukraine, Putin has been increasingly signaling the possibility of using chemical or biological weapons to wipe out entire cities and force the country to surrender.On Monday, Biden warned that Putin was falsely accusing the U.S. or Ukraine of using biological or chemical weapons to possibly justify Russia’s own attack on Ukraine.“They are also suggesting that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. That’s a clear sign he’s considering using both of those,” Biden said, without presenting any evidence.Evidence or not, “the threat of Russia’s use of chemical weapons is real,” said Dan Baer, acting director of the Europe program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.“Russia has a long track record of accusing others of what they are either already doing or about to do, and that is the kind of projection that we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks. And it’s very scary,” he said in an interview Tuesday. Russia has previously used chemical weapons on the battlefield, including in Syria, raising the immediate risk of a chemical attack to Ukraine far higher than it would be if it were any other country that was attacking Kyiv.“Russia crossing the threshold to the use of chemical weapons for an attack is a greater threat than it was two weeks ago, partly because of Ukraine’s success in defending itself,” said Steven Durlauf, a sociologist at the University of Chicago and an expert in human macroeconomics. Russia’s use of chemical weapons would likely overcome any lingering resistance among both the European and American public to support an even greater involvement in the Ukraine conflict, he said. On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said using chemical weapons would change the nature of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.“It will be a blatant violation of international law and with far-reaching consequences,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels, adding that the use of such weapons could impact nearby NATO member countries.cnbc.com

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