NATO members pledge to support Ukraine against possible chemical attacks

STUTTGART, Germany — NATO members plan to approve additional support for Ukraine in defending that country against Russian invasion, including equipment to counter a possible chemical or biological attack.

This support is crucial to protect member countries of the alliance, which would also suffer from contamination if Russia used a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) weapon against Ukraine, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday. from Brussels, during a televised press conference. conference.

“Any use of chemical weapons would totally change the nature of the conflict, constitute a flagrant violation of international law and have far-reaching consequences,” Stoltenberg said. “I think that’s the most important message to send, that any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.”

Stoltenberg did not immediately provide details on what the CBRN support would include, saying it would be one of several talking points at Thursday’s summit with leaders of the 30 member nations. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address NATO leaders virtually during the closed-door summit.

Members are expected to approve new cybersecurity assistance for Ukraine, as well as additional support for non-NATO Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. China’s role in the Ukrainian conflict will also be discussed.

“The Allies are concerned that China will provide material support for the Russian invasion,” Stoltenberg said.

Meanwhile, member nations have deployed four new NATO battlegroups to Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, doubling the number of groups positioned along the alliance’s eastern border. France has offered to lead the group in Romania, while the Czech Republic will lead the additional troops in Slovakia. Bulgaria and Hungary will lead the battlegroups in their respective countries, a NATO spokesperson told Defense News.

NATO has existing battlegroups stationed in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, and together the eight battlegroups will cross NATO borders from the Baltic to the Black Sea, Stoltenberg said. There are now hundreds of thousands of NATO troops on high alert across the alliance, including 100,000 US forces across Europe and 40,000 forces directly under NATO command, mostly in the eastern part of the alliance, he added.

These battlegroups will be in place “as long as necessary”, and NATO is currently considering how to position its troops for the long term.

“This invasion… will have long-term consequences for our security,” Stoltenberg said. “This is a new normal for our security, and NATO must respond to this new reality.”

Julianne Smith, US ambassador to NATO, said military advisers would present options in the coming months for new troop commitments to eastern alliance countries. That’s because the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, which limits such deployments, effectively went out the window after Moscow’s war on Ukraine, she said.

“Russia is in clear violation” of the pact, Smith said Wednesday during remarks at an event sponsored by the Atlantic Council think tank.

Before making final troop-level recommendations, NATO analysts must take into account the evolution of the war in Ukraine and the number of forces Russia intends to leave in Belarus, he said. she adds.

Smith toned down expectations for a Polish proposal, which will be discussed this week, for a NATO peacekeeping mission in Ukraine. Although the idea is “not dead in the water”, she said it poses many “open questions” and will ultimately come up against the commitment of US President Joe Biden and other leaders of the alliance to refrain from sending troops to Ukraine.

Sebastian Sprenger in Washington contributed to this report.

Vivienne Machi is a journalist based in Stuttgart, Germany, who contributes to Defense News’ European coverage. She previously worked for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defense Media Awards’ Best Young Defense Journalist in 2020.