News and Analysis

Psaki Won’t Commit To US Response If Russia Uses Chemical Weapons Attack
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki talks to reporters in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on March 10, 2022 in Washington, DC. Paski was pressed during the daily news conference about the Biden Administration's continuing efforts to punish Russia over its invasion of neighboring Ukraine. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused to commit to a United States response in the event that Russia did — as many have warned — use chemical or biological attacks as part of their ongoing war in Ukraine.

CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins pressed repeatedly for a definitive answer on the subject, but Psaki would only repeat President Joe Biden’s promise not to send American troops to fight the Russians in Ukraine.

“Jen Psaki says she is not going to get into hypotheticals when asked if a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine would warrant a US military response. Asked if Biden would let a Russian chemical weapons attack go unanswered, Psaki says, ‘We haven’t let anything go unanswered,'” Collins tweeted after the exchange that took place during Thursday’s White House press briefing.

“Psaki says President Biden’s position that US forces won’t go into Ukraine still stands,” Collins added.


“If Russia does conduct a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine, there will not be a military response from the United States—” Collins prompted.

“I’m not going to get into hypotheticals,” Psaki replied, adding, “What we’re saying right now is that 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.”

“But that sounds like even if there is a chemical weapons attack, that calculus will not change, so I just want to be clear on what the U.S. response would be—” Collins tried again.

“Again, there has not been a chemical weapons attack,” Psaki replied. “We are conveying to all of you what the capacity and the capabilities of Russia are, what steps they have taken in the past … but the president and our NATO partners, they have not changed their assessment about their plans to send U.S. troops in.”

“Would President Biden let a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine go unanswered by the United States?” Collins tried a different tack.

“We have not let anything go unanswered that President Putin has done to date,” Psaki objected. “We have not let anything go unanswered to date, any steps that President Putin has taken to date. What that would look like, I can’t give you an assessment of that from here.”

Just two days earlier, facing questions from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland said that officials were certain that if a chemical or biological attack were used in Ukraine, the Russians would be the ones behind it. She also voiced concerns that Russia would gain control of Ukrainian research facilities that could give them greater capabilities on that particular front.

As The Daily Wire reported:

“Let me ask you, does Ukraine have chemical or biological weapons?” Rubio asked.

“Ukraine has biological research facilities, which, in fact, we are now quite concerned Russian forces may be seeking to gain control of,” Nuland replied. “So we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces, should they approach.”