President Biden has met with world leaders through a series of emergency summits in Brussels to show Russia that NATO, the Group of Seven, and the European Union are united against its invasion of Ukraine, a war which had just hit the 1-month mark.
“NATO has never, never been more united than is it today,” Biden proclaimed. “Putin is getting the exact opposite of what he intended to have as a consequence of going into Ukraine.”
Putin was banking on NATO being split, but it has never been more united than it is today. pic.twitter.com/HJ7GnOpGjg
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 24, 2022
With Russian forces seeming to be on the defensive in Ukraine following losing vital high-ranking generals and commanders, losing critical areas to Ukrainian forces, and the recent destruction of a Russian landing ship in Berdyansk, Putin is seen to be getting desperate to win the invasion.
It is this perceived desperation that the West had been wary of Russia’s usage of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. This extreme rhetoric from Putin sets the tone for a unified NATO and Western response, with several added sanctions and more military aid to Ukraine.
Here are some updates to keep you up to speed about the back-to-back meetings:
West Warns Russia of Using Chemical Weapons, Biden Vows a Response in Kind
Western leaders had discussed and planned their next moves in responding to Russia’s aggressiveness in Ukraine. Specifically, the leaders were concerned about a potential chemical, biological, or even a nuclear attack from Moscow. Moscow had been posturing that its statehood was now at stake as the Kremlin is seen to be increasingly desperate to win the war.
Russia may be trying to create a pretext for the use of chemical weapons in Ukraine by accusing the United States and its allies of preparing such an attack, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said https://t.co/dKMnIzhM5j pic.twitter.com/DKRWKpvUeQ
— Reuters (@Reuters) March 24, 2022
Biden had stated that if Russia were to use chemical weapons in Ukraine, it would prompt an American response “in kind”. However, the nature of the response would depend on the nature of its use, according to the President.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also expressed his thoughts on the use of chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine. However, he did not mention any repercussions if Russia were to push through with said attacks.
“We are concerned partly because we see the rhetoric, and we see that Russia is trying to create some kind of pretext by accusing Ukraine, the United States, and NATO allies of preparing to use chemical and biological weapons.”
Despite not indicating repercussions, Stoltenberg did state that NATO would be aiding Ukraine to protect itself from the effects of these biological and chemical weapons. A possible course of action is to give Ukraine detection gear, protection gear, medical supplies, and training for decontamination in the case of a Russian chemical attack. He also reported that the defensive elements of NATO pertaining to chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks were active.
According to a military source, this essentially means that NATO has prepared teams to respond to chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks as they were placed on higher alert earlier this week. However, it is important to note that Stoltenberg and Biden were adamant that they would not be directly involved. Their responses if Russia were to attack Ukraine with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons were vague and not specified.
“We would respond. We would respond,” Biden said. “It would trigger a response in-kind,” the President said to reporters. “Whether or not you’re asking whether NATO would cross, we’d make that decision at the time.”
Wider Sanctions for 400 Individuals and Entities, Energy Crisis in Europe
The Group of Seven later issued a statement regarding the potential attack, along with the European Union. In terms of sanctions, they had collectively released a new set of fiscal and economic sanctions that target specific Russian individuals and defense companies. Specifically, the US and its allies sanctioned 40 Russian defense companies and 28 firms linked to state-owned Tactical Missiles Corp.
Furthermore, 328 members of the Russian Duma (Russia’s parliament), Sberbank head Herman Gref, 17 board members of Sovcombank, and Gennady Timchenko (and all his companies) were sanctioned by the West. In total, about 400 individuals and entities were targeted by these sanctions. The effects of these sanctions would reportedly kick Russia out of the world’s top 20 economies, leaving them to be a pariah state.
Regarding the energy crisis in Europe, it is important to note that Russia supplies 40% of the EU’s gas supply. European nations are looking for other sources to reduce their reliance on Russian gas as it is being used to influence the EU’s decision-making.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who halted the certification process of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline earlier in February, stated that it was not willing to boycott Russian energy. Boycotting it would prevent their country from having sufficient oil and gas supplies and would further damage their economy. Other European countries are hoping for a bloc response to the energy crisis as they need to have gas supplies for the winter.
In response to this, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen had expressed her solution to the problem by purchasing more liquified natural gas from the US for the European Union, especially during the winter months. However, it is unknown what Biden thinks of this proposal as the US is also experiencing a drastic increase in gas prices.
Did Zelensky Plea for a No-Fly Zone, More Military Aid to Come
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was present during the closed-door NATO meeting. According to sources, Zelensky did not plead for a no-fly zone, which is a significant shift from his prior rhetoric of rallying to “close the sky.” These aforementioned calls were intensified by Zelensky in the past as the Ukrainians were suffering from civilian bombardments, with many dying due to being hit by Russian missiles.
Zelensky did thank the world leaders for their help. However, he also said he needed more to defend his country effectively.
President Zelensky to NATO: we asked for fighter jets, you have thousands of them, but haven't got any. You have 20,000 tanks – we need just 1% of them. We need them defend our country. We just want to live, to survive. I believe it's everyone's right. pic.twitter.com/G7lB1CYcsq
— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) March 24, 2022
“Ukraine asked for your planes so that we do not lose so many people. And you have thousands of fighter jets! But we haven’t been given any yet,” the Ukrainian President said. “You have at least 20,000 tanks! Ukraine asked for a percent—one percent—of all your tanks to be given or sold to us! But we do not have a clear answer.”
“One percent of all your planes, one percent of all your tanks,” Zelensky said to the leaders of the NATO alliance. “We can’t just buy those. When we will have all this, it will give us, just like you, 100% security.”
In response, Biden had announced after the meeting that it would be sending an additional $1 billion to supply Ukraine with food, water, and medicine. This is on top of the $800 million military assistance package that was mainly different types of munitions to help arm the Ukrainians.
Finland and Belgium had also announced that they would be sending military aid to Ukraine. The former sent an unspecified number of military equipment, and the latter also added 1 billion euros to its defense budget for Ukraine.
Collectively, NATO has sent or is in the process of sending a huge amount of munitions to Ukraine, as declared through a statement released in late February.
“Thousands of anti-tank weapons, hundreds of air-defense missiles, and thousands of small arms and ammunition stocks are being sent to Ukraine,” the statement read dated February 27. “Allies are also providing millions of euros worth of financial assistance and humanitarian aid, including medical supplies to help Ukrainian forces.”
More American Troops, New Battlegroups
“I expect leaders will agree to strengthen NATO’s posture in all domains, with major increases of forces in the eastern part of the alliance, on land, in the air, and at sea. The first step is the deployment of four new NATO battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia,” said Stoltenberg before the start of the summit.
I met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today to address Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. We discussed the unity and strength of the alliance, NATO’s ongoing efforts to deter and defend against any aggression, and our support for Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/WEJVXvzxck
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 24, 2022
It seems that the NATO leaders had agreed as it was reported that Biden and NATO were going to send more troops to NATO countries close to Ukraine to secure the alliance’s eastern flank. However, it was not said whether these were permanent battlegroups or not. Four new battlegroups are to be formed in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, which now make up a total of 8 battalions to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank.
“Between now and the NATO summit in June, we will develop plans for additional forces and capabilities to strengthen NATO’s defenses,” Biden announced. We will adopt an updated Strategic Concept to ensure NATO is ready to meet any challenge in the new and more dangerous security environment.”
G-20, China, and Belarus
Biden had called for the removal of Russia from the G-20 when reporters asked him after the NATO meeting.
“My answer is yes,” he plainly said. However, if expulsion is not acceptable to other countries, he also said that another option is that Ukraine would be allowed to attend meetings as an observer.
Regarding China and its close relations with Russia, it can be remembered that Biden had personally called Chinese President Xi Jinping to warn him of repercussions if they were to help Russia with its invasion. NATO had also called on China to condemn Russia after the meeting through a joint statement. The alliance had also called on Belarus to stop cooperating with Russia in its invasion. However, repercussions were not mentioned at this time.
US to Accept 100,000 Refugees
President Biden had also announced, along with its additional aid to Ukraine, that the US is open to accepting 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and others who may be fleeing from the war. Details of how the Ukrainian refugees would enter the US is still being discussed. However, it was specified that they would go through a number of legal pathways and the conventional US refugee program.
JUST IN: Pres. Biden announces the U.S. will welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees "with a focus on reuniting families," and commit more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians affected by Russia's invasion. https://t.co/rMpgpB8hNZ pic.twitter.com/xokQbqCiDJ
— ABC News (@ABC) March 24, 2022
If successful, 100,000 Ukrainian refugees entering the United States would be the largest number of refugees that had flown into the US in history. Last Monday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had even called for an air bridge to help Ukrainians leave their country to settle in other countries. However, the effort and relocation process would be difficult due to logistics and legalities.
“Many Ukrainian refugees will wish to stay in Europe, closer to their homes, but we’ll also welcome 100,000 Ukrainians to the United States with a focus on reuniting families,” the President said.