Speaking to CNN’s “At This Hour” on Friday, U.S. Department of State spokesman Ned Price said that Russia would face a “cascade of consequences” in the event that it uses weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine.
“I’ll say a couple things, both of which shouldn’t have to be said in the year 2022,” Price told CNN. “Number one, the use of any kind of weapon of mass destruction would constitute the height of irresponsibility. And number two, the use of WMD would elicit a cascade of consequences not only from the United States but from our partners and allies around the world.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent decision to appoint Gen. Alexander Dvornikov as the head of his military’s Ukraine operation signaled to the world that the Kremlin may be willing to escalate in Ukraine following a series of embarrassing defeats. Dvornikov is often called the “Butcher of Syria,” a reference to his use of heavy weaponry against civilians in Syria.
What Constitutes a WMD?
The term “weapon of mass destruction” may refer to several different kinds of weapons, including nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological. Generally, a WMD is designed to harm as many people as possible, meaning that it goes beyond regular ammunition and explosives.
NATO forces believe that Russia is willing to use biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons as part of its military offensive in Ukraine. In the latest $800 million aid package announced this week by the White House, Ukrainian soldiers were provided with a range of protective equipment that helps soldiers and civilians survive in the event that nuclear, chemical or biological weapons are used.
Will Russia Use WMDs?
Originally said they would use them in the event of an “existential threat” to Russia. Dmitry Peskov then walked that back and said existential threat is unrelated to Ukraine. And now, they warned of nuclear deployment in the Baltic Sea if Finland and Sweden join NATO.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned on March 22 that Russia would be compelled to deploy its tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a perceived existential threat to Russia. Those comments were walked back within days when Peskov told Western news outlets that the idea of an “existential threat” to Russia was separate from the Ukraine conflict and that he did not expect the Russian Federation to deploy nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
This week, however, the Kremlin warned that if Finland and NATO announce in coming weeks their intention to join NATO, Russia would deploy nuclear weapons to the Baltic Sea.
“There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic — the balance must be restored,” Russian Security Council chairman Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.
Putin also put his country’s nuclear weapons on high alert in March.
However, according to Dan Hamilton of the Brookings Institution, the threat made by Medvedev was “disingenuous.”
“They already have nuclear weapons in the Baltic region,” Hamilton said, adding that the comments were an effort to intimidate.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.