President Biden said on Wednesday he believed there was a “real threat” that Russian President Vladimir Putin would order the use of chemical weapons in an effort to reignite his stalled war in Ukraine.
Biden made the comment to reporters as he left the White House for a four-day trip to Belgium and Poland, where he will meet with U.S. allies and discuss further responses to Russia’s catastrophic invasion, which will reach the one-month mark on Thursday.
The president declined to preview his message to the rest of the West when asked, “Whatever I have to say I will say when I get there.”
“I will be happy to talk to you when I return,” the president added to the press.
Despite Biden’s fears, a senior US defense official said Tuesday that Washington has so far seen no evidence that Russia is moving towards unleashing chemical or biological weapons against Ukraine.
Biden arrived in Brussels on Wednesday evening and checked into his hotel without making any public remarks. He was greeted at the airport by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo.
Biden thanked the Belgian leader “for Belgium’s strong support within the EU for the sanctions against Russia and for the continued coordination in providing security assistance to Ukraine,” the House said. White.
This week’s trip, Biden’s first international trip since last fall, will test the president’s ability to weather Europe’s worst crisis since World War II – a crisis that his national security adviser said , has no quick end in sight.
“This war is not going to end easily or quickly,” Jake Sullivan told reporters while previewing the trip on Tuesday. “For the past few months, the West has been united. The president is going to Europe to make sure that we remain united.
Sullivan added that while abroad, Biden would coordinate with allies on military assistance to Ukraine and further sanctions against Russia. the Wall Street Journal reported overnight that the United States was preparing sanctions against hundreds of members of the Russian parliament, the Duma, which could be announced as early as Thursday.
The adviser also said Biden would discuss long-term efforts to bolster defenses in Eastern Europe, where several nations that were part of the Soviet sphere of influence during the Cold War fear renewed Russian aggression.
The president traveled to Europe without his main spokesperson. White House press secretary Jen Psaki was forced to give up the trip at the last minute after contracting COVID-19.
The first stop on Biden’s itinerary is Brussels, where he will take part in back-to-back meetings on Thursday, including an extraordinary NATO summit.
He will also participate in meetings with the leaders of the European Union and the G7 countries, which include the wealthiest democracies in the world.
On Friday, Biden will travel to Warsaw to discuss the strain on Poland’s humanitarian resources due to the ongoing Ukrainian refugee crisis. It’s unclear whether he will travel to the Ukrainian border, with White House officials saying aboard Air Force One on Wednesday that such plans would remain unclear for “security reasons.”
According to the United Nations, more than 3.6 million people have been displaced by the month-long war, of whom more than 2.1 million have sought refuge in Poland.
Biden is due to meet Polish President Andrzej Duda on Saturday before ending the trip with a speech about the conflict and the West’s support for Ukraine and democracy.
The president’s trip follows Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Warsaw earlier this month, during which Duda called on the United States to speed up the visa process for Ukrainians seeking to temporarily relocate to the states. -United.