Team Biden is scrambling to respond to claims of Russian chemical weapons use

The word, used by several US officials who have been involved in contingency planning for such an attack for at least a month, is “proportionate,” meaning America and its allies intend to respond in a manner consistent with the potential war crimes.

Instead, some suggested that America and its allies could impose more sanctions on Moscow or further bolster Ukraine’s defenses with advanced weaponry. Biden aides have also speculated that the use of chemical weapons could be the final nudge for European nations to stop importing Russian energy, funds that have fueled Putin’s war machine and filled his country’s coffers.

Before that happens, the first step is to confirm allegations by a Ukrainian military group that Russia used a chemical substance in Mariupol on Monday. That Azov regimenta front-line combat unit that has been fighting Russia in Donbass since 2014 and is linked to neo-Nazi groups and white supremacists, Russian troops said dropped a chemical weapon from a drone and poisoned at least three people, although the group said the affected soldiers are not experiencing catastrophic health effects. If true, it would be the first known use of chemical weapons in the war since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

US and European officials have yet to corroborate the allegation. Experts say a preliminary assessment could be made using photos or video, if available, while US or Western officials are on the ground collecting samples for a more conclusive check. Ukraine could also invite the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a global surveillance agency based in the Netherlands, to send a rapid-deployment team to the site to investigate.

Officials warned Tuesday that such a provision may not be imminent. It may take time to determine if chemical weapons have been used, as was the case during the 2013 conflict in Syria.

“There is no independent verification in this area, so it will probably take a long time,” a European official told POLITICO. There are a “variety of difficulties” in verifying the claims, a senior US defense official told reporters on Tuesday. “Those are difficult things to prove even when you’re closer and we’re not.”

In addition, US officials raised questions about the Azov regiment’s credibility, noting that the far-right group may be anxious to provoke a major confrontation. They also noted that Ukrainian officials, who were quick to accuse Russia of atrocities, have not definitively declared that illegal weapons were used.

To this point, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy did not confirm that chemical weapons had been used during his address on Monday, but said he was taking the recent threat of their use in Mariupol by Russian-backed separatists “as seriously as possible”. But Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, tweeted hours earlier that “Chemical weapons are used‘ in Mariupol.

Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, told CNN hours later that the US is working with Ukraine “to find out exactly what happened here.” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss added on twitter that “any use of such weapons would be a callous escalation in this conflict and we will hold Putin and his regime accountable.”

The US has long warned and urged that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine Biden to tell reporters in Europe last month that his government would act swiftly if Putin’s troops went that far. “The type of response would depend on the type of use,” he said, adding “it would elicit a response in kind.”

It is currently unclear what the government considers an “appropriate” response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Mariupol. Western officials publicly condemn the use of all chemical weapons. But privately they admit that such weapons have a wide range of lethality – in other words, that there is a big difference between a canister of chlorine and a sarin bomb dropped on a school. More serious consequences, they note, would be handed out in response to the possible use of more dangerous weapons.

What is clear, however, is that a response appears imminent if the international community confirms the allegations by the Azov regiment. “Any confirmed use of banned chemical weapons would have serious consequences for Russia,” said Andrew Weber, former Pentagon chief for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons during the Obama era.

The current moment is reminiscent of former President Barack Obama’s “red line” in Syria, in which he promised that the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would trigger a US response.

A year after Obama’s infamous remark, Assad’s forces killed more than 1,400 people with sarin gas. In response, then-Vice President Biden vowed to a crowd at the American Legion that “those who use chemical weapons against defenseless men, women and children should and must be held accountable.”

Ultimately the Obama administration signed an agreement with Russia to remove 600 tons of Syrian chemical stocks. Biden hailed that decision at the time and credited the White House with moving the world to act on a “fundamental violation of human rights.” But the merits of the deal were soon called into question when Syrian forces monitored further chemical attacks in 2017 and 2018.

In response to these attacks, then-President Donald Trump authorized attacks on Syrian targets.

“We cannot allow such atrocities,” he said before the second answer.

These strikes were largely symbolic responses. First and foremost, the Trump administration fired missiles at a Syrian airbase from which planes had dropped the chemical weapons — but informed Russia in advance Keeping assets off targets. It hasn’t sparked a major global conflict, but it hasn’t destroyed the entire Syrian chemical weapons program either.

Current administration officials insist that the situation has now changed dramatically and that neither has Biden made any such red-line statement.

An attack on Russia would be far more dangerous than hitting Syrian government targets. Moscow, armed with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and advanced cyber capabilities, could respond by escalating the conflict outside Ukraine’s borders. As a reaction to a confirmed chemical weapons attack, new sanctions, further arms deliveries to Ukraine or even a cyber attack are now being considered.

“We will choose the form and nature of our response based on Russia’s actions, and we will do so in coordination with our allies. And we have communicated to the Russians … that there will be a heavy price if Russia uses chemical weapons.” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters in March and supported Biden’s comments. Team Biden is scrambling to respond to claims of Russian chemical weapons use

Fry Electronics Team

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