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Biden threatens US response against Russia if chemical weapons used in Ukraine

President Joe Biden delivers remarks Aug. 31, 2021, in front of the Cross Hall of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
March 24, 2022

President Joe Biden said on Thursday that the U.S. “would respond” if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine.

During a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on Thursday, a reporter asked if the U.S. would respond with military force if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine. Biden answered, “We would respond. We would respond if he uses it. The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use.”

Asked a second time if the U.S. military would respond, Biden answered, “It would trigger a response in kind.”

Biden declined to answer specifics of U.S. intelligence of Russia’s weapons use and potential use of chemical weapons.

Biden has said repeatedly that he anticipates Russian President Vladimir Putin will use chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine. On Tuesday, a U.S. senior defense official said the Pentagon “agrees with the president’s assessment about the rhetoric and the language” from Russia.

However, a day later, a senior U.S. defense official said the U.S. hasn’t “seen any imminent signs that there’s going to be a chem-bio event caused by the Russians.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned on Sunday that Russia’s use of chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine would lead to a “significant reaction” from the United States and its global allies.

“If a chemical or biological weapon was used, you’d see a significant reaction from not only the United States, but also the global community,” Austin said during an appearance on “Face the Nation,” as reported by CBS News. “I don’t want to speculate about what exactly would change our calculation. I think engaging in hypotheticals is probably not helpful here either, but this is a very serious step and as you heard our president say, we won’t take that lightly.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that Russia’s use of chemical weapons “would totally change the nature of the conflict” and would be “a blatant violation of international law.”

Stoltenberg added that chemical weapons use is “absolutely unacceptable” and would result in “far reaching consequences.”

Biden’s comments on Thursday came after he unleashed a new round of sanctions against 400 Russian individuals and entities, announced the U.S. would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, and publicly said he believed Russia should be removed from the G20 alliance.