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NSA Sullivan: Russia Could Use Chemical Weapons, Then ‘Pin The Blame’ On U.S. Or Ukraine

On Sunday, Biden administration National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” with host Margaret Brennan to discuss several issues relating to Russia’s ongoing invasion on Ukraine.

Brennan first asked Sullivan about allegations of chemical weapons use.

“There are reports of white phosphorus being used in Ukraine, reports of chlorine gas,” Brennan said. “How imminent is a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine?”

Sullivan said that while he cannot make an exact prediction, the “escalating level of rhetoric” from Russia seeming to claim that the U.S. or Ukraine are poised to deploy chemical weapons is a sign that Russia “getting ready to do it and try and pin the blame elsewhere.”

He then reiterated what President Biden said on Friday, that if Russia uses chemical weapons, “they will pay a severe price.”

Brennan pressed Sullivan on if American military force might be used in the event of a chemical weapons attack, but Sullivan stated that he wouldn’t “go further than what President Biden said on Friday” regarding “severe” consequences for such a weapons attack.

Sullivan added that Russia’s alleged consideration of escalation comes, in part, as a result of what the United States and allies have done in terms of aid to Ukraine.

TRANSCRIPT:

BRENNAN: Jake, there are reports of white phosphorus being used in Ukraine, reports of chlorine gas. How imminent is a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine?

SULLIVAN: We can’t predict a time or place. All we can say is that there is an escalating level of rhetoric on the Russian side trying to accuse the Ukrainians and the United States of potentially using chemical or biological weapons. And that’s a tell, Margaret. That’s an indicator that in fact, the Russians are getting ready to do it and try and pin the blame elsewhere, and nobody should fall for that. That is why we’ve gone out so decisively at the United Nations Security Council and elsewhere to rob the Russians of the capacity to pin this on anyone other than themselves. And as the president said on Friday, if in fact the Russians do use chemical weapons in Ukraine, they will pay a severe price.

BRENNAN: Overnight, Poland’s president has said [the] use of a weapon of mass destruction would be a game changer for NATO. President Biden seemed to say military force is completely off the table in Ukraine, even if a weapon like this was used. Is that the case?

SULLIVAN: We are consulting with our allies, and collectively we are communicating directly to the Russians. Sitting here before you today, I’m not going to go further than what President Biden said on Friday, which is that the Russians would pay a severe price if they were to move forward with chemical weapons.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But none of the sanctions you’ve imposed so far have stopped Putin. So is there any red line for the administration here in terms of humanitarian catastrophe that would change the president’s calculus? Is this a game changer?

SULLIVAN: The use of weapons of mass destruction would be a shocking additional line that Putin is crossing in terms of his assault on international law and international norms, his assault on the human rights and human dignity of the people of Ukraine. But bottom line, Margaret, the premise of your question, which is, well, sanctions haven’t stopped Putin, so are they not working? I think we have to look at this in two respects. One is, have we imposed severe costs on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine? And the answer is yes. And the second is, have we been able to help the Ukrainians defend themselves against these attacks, to push back Russian forces from being able to take major cities, including the capital city Kyiv? And the answer to that is yes as well. And part of the reason why Putin is resorting to the possibility of extreme tactics like the use of chemical weapons is because he’s frustrated because his forces aren’t advancing. And one of the reasons they’re not advancing, the central reason is the bravery and skill of the Ukrainian people, but they are being supported by substantial amounts of military assistance from the United States and our allies.

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