Biden warns 'brute' Putin to expect NATO response if Russia uses chemical weapons against Ukraine

NATO leaders have promised to help Ukraine protect itself against any chemical, biological or nuclear attacks

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NATO promised Kyiv new military support and assigned more troops to the alliance's eastern flank while London and Washington stepped up sanctions on Moscow during a trio of summits on Thursday aimed at showing Western unity against Russia's war in Ukraine.

NATO leaders meeting in Brussels agreed to help Ukraine protect itself against any chemical, biological or nuclear attacks, and a U.S. official said allies were working to provide Kyiv with anti-ship missiles.

"The single most important thing is for us to stay unified and the world continue to focus on what a brute this guy is and all the innocent people's lives that are being lost and ruined," US President Joe Biden told a news conference, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the framework of a NATO summit amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the framework of a NATO summit amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

"We have to stay fully, totally, thoroughly united."

The United States promised to supply the EU with 15 billion cubic metres more of liquefied natural gas this year than had been planned before, sources told Reuters, as the European bloc seeks to quickly curb its reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson pose for a family photo during the G7 summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022. Michael Kappeler/Pool via REUTERS
U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson pose for a family photo during the G7 summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022. Michael Kappeler/Pool via REUTERS

However, support pledges by leaders from countries representing more than half of the world's GDP fell short of satisfying Ukraine's pleas for much more arms and tighter sanctions, including an embargo on Russian energy.

Russia supplies 40% of the EU's gas needs and more than a quarter of its oil imports. Those most dependent on this supply - in particular Germany - are reluctant to take a step that would have a major economic impact.

Speaking to 27 EU leaders via a video call on Thursday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked them for sanctions against Russia but said they came too late to prevent Putin from invading on Feb.24.

"Now we are discussing Ukraine's membership in the European Union. At least here, I beg you, don't be late," Zelenskyy said.

He called out Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for maintaining close ties with Putin as Russia was shelling Ukrainian cities and hoped key sceptics of EU enlargement - Germany, France and the Netherlands - would change tack.

In a move that made Europe's dilemma worse, Putin said "unfriendly" countries must start paying for energy supplies in roubles, which would prop up the battered Russian currency.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa said "nobody will pay in roubles" and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen rejected what she called "blackmail".