In a series of media appearances on Sunday morning, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is frustrated by his lack of progress in Ukraine and could be preparing to ramp up his efforts — including using chemical weapons.
Sullivan told CNN that the deadly missile strike in western Ukraine on Sunday shows that Putin “is frustrated by the fact that his forces are not making the kind of progress that he thought that they would make against major cities, including Kyiv.”
Due to that, Sullivan suggested, observers are seeing “that he is expanding the number of targets, that he is lashing out and that he is trying to cause damage in every part of the country.”
Sullivan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that when Russia starts accusing other countries of preparing to launch biological or chemical attacks, “it’s a good tell that they may be on the cusp of doing it themselves.”
The White House has accused China of spreading false Russian claims that Ukraine is running chemical and biological weapons labs with US support. Sullivan is slated to meet with senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi in Rome on Monday to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
On Saturday, NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, also warned that Russia may deploy chemical weapons in Ukraine. Stoltenberg told the German news outlet Welt am Sonntag that such a chemical attack will be a war crime.
“In recent days, we have heard absurd claims about chemical and biological weapons laboratories,” Stoltenberg said. “We must remain vigilant because it is possible that Russia itself could plan chemical weapons operations under this fabrication of lies. That would be a war crime.”
Sullivan said Sunday that Russia will face a response from NATO should any of its attacks in Ukraine cross borders and hit members of the security alliance.
The US national security adviser told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that President Joe Biden “has been clear repeatedly that the United States will work with our allies to defend every inch of NATO territory and that means every inch.”
Sullivan said a military attack on NATO territory would cause the invocation of Article 5. That requires other countries in NATO to come to the defense of the attacked nation. “We will bring the full force of the NATO alliance to bear in responding,” he said.
He also said that NATO would respond even if a shot by Russia that hit NATO territory is accidental.
Responding to news of the death of an American journalist in Kyiv on Sunday, Sullivan told CBS News that the US government will be consulting with the Ukrainians to determine how it happened and will then “execute appropriate consequences.”
“This is part and parcel of what has been a brazen aggression on the part of the Russians,” he said, “where they have targeted civilians, they have targeted hospitals, they have targeted places of worship, and they have targeted journalists.”