President Joe Biden on Friday warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country would pay "a severe price" if it used chemical weapons in Ukraine.
"I'm not going to speak about the intelligence … but Russia would pay a severe price if they use chemical weapons," Biden said after being asked whether the U.S. would have a military response if Putin launched a chemical weapons attack.
Biden spoke at the end of a press briefing in which he announced that the U.S. will downgrade dramatically its trade status with Russia as punishment for its invasion of Ukraine and also ban imports of Russian seafood, alcohol, and diamonds.
The Biden administration warned Wednesday that Russia might seek to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine as the White House rejected Russian claims of illegal chemical weapons development in the country it has invaded.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also has warned that Russia could unleash a biological or chemical weapons attack against Ukraine.
"Important Warning. In 2018 [Russia’s President Vladimir] Putin used propaganda war to blame rebels for [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad's chemical weapons attacks,” Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted March 3.
"High probability he could carry out real or staged biological/chemical attacks in Ukraine & blame it on NATO or Ukrainian forces."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova this week, without evidence, accused Ukraine of running chemical and biological weapons labs in its territory, supported by the United States.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Russia's claim "preposterous" and said it could be part of an attempt by Russia to lay the groundwork for itself using such weapons of mass destruction against Ukraine.
During Thursday's press briefing, Psaki was asked whether Russian use of chemical weapons in Ukraine would result in a military response from the U.S.
"I'm not going to get into hypotheticals," Psaki said. "What we're saying right now is they have the capacity and the capabilities. I'm also not going to get into intelligence. But the president's intention of sending U.S. military to fight in Ukraine against Russia has not changed."
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