Politics

NATO says it’s stepping up chemical, nuclear defenses in response to Russia

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday the military alliance will beef up its defenses against chemical and nuclear weapons as fears rise that Russia could deploy such measures in Ukraine.

“Our top military commander General Walters has activated NATO’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense elements, and allies are deploying additional chemical and biological and nuclear defenses to reinforce our existing and new backing groups,” Mr. Stoltenberg said at a summit to discuss NATO’s response to Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Ahead of Mr. Stoltenberg’s comments, NATO leaders issued a joint statement pledging to enhance their preparedness for a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear threat. The statement said “further decisions” will be discussed at the next NATO summit this summer in Madrid.

Mr. Stoltenberg also announced that NATO will send equipment to Ukraine to help protect it from a chemical weapons attack. The gear will include detection equipment and protective and medical support, along with training for decontamination and crisis management.

President Biden on Wednesday raised alarms about the possibility that Russia will attack Ukraine with chemical weapons.

“I think it’s a real threat,” Mr. Biden said as he departed the White House for the NATO summit.

Russia has denied possessing chemical weapons, claiming it destroyed the last of such weapons in 2017.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a month ago, the Biden administration has expressed concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin is searching for a pretext to use chemical and biological weapons in the war.

Russian officials last week alleged that the U.S. is developing bioweapons in Ukraine, a charge American officials have dismissed as “false” and “laughable.” CIA Director William Burns told Congress earlier this month that the claims are a way for Russia to justify the use of chemical weapons in Ukraine.

Mr. Biden has vowed that Moscow will “pay a severe price” if it deploys chemical weapons against Ukraine. However, the White House has been vague about what that response would be, including whether it would result in U.S. military intervention.

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