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Ukraine-Russia War Live Updates and News: Biden Meets With NATO Leaders

BRUSSELS — The White Home has quietly assembled a group of nationwide safety officers to sketch out eventualities of how the US and its allies ought to reply if President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — pissed off by his lack of progress in Ukraine or decided to warn Western nations towards intervening within the conflict — unleashes his stockpiles of chemical, organic or nuclear weapons.

The Tiger Group, because the group is understood, can also be inspecting responses if Mr. Putin reaches into NATO territory to assault convoys bringing weapons and help to Ukraine, in line with a number of officers concerned within the course of. Assembly 3 times every week, in categorized periods, the group can also be taking a look at responses if Russia seeks to increase the conflict to neighboring nations, together with Moldova and Georgia, and how one can put together European nations for the refugees flowing in on a scale not seen in many years.

These contingencies are anticipated to be central to a rare session right here in Brussels on Thursday, when President Biden meets leaders of the 29 different NATO nations, who shall be assembly for the primary time — behind closed doorways, their cellphones and aides banished — since Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine.

Only a month in the past, such eventualities appeared extra theoretical. However at the moment, from the White Home to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, a recognition has set in that Russia might flip to probably the most highly effective weapons in its arsenal to bail itself out of a navy stalemate.

NATO’s secretary common, Jens Stoltenberg, underscored the urgency of the preparation effort on Wednesday, telling reporters for the primary time that even when the Russians make use of weapons of mass destruction solely inside Ukraine, they might have “dire penalties” for folks in NATO nations. He gave the impression to be discussing the worry that chemical or radioactive clouds may drift over the border. One concern below examination is whether or not such collateral injury can be thought of an “assault” on NATO below its constitution, which could require a joint navy response.

The present group was established in a memo signed by Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s nationwide safety adviser, on Feb. 28, 4 days after the invasion started, in line with the officers concerned within the course of, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate delicate planning. A earlier iteration had labored for months, behind the scenes, to organize the U.S. authorities for the probability of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

That group performed a central function in devising the playbooks of deep sanctions, troop buildups in NATO nations and arming the Ukrainian navy, which have exploited Russian weaknesses and put its authorities and economic system below super strain.

Mr. Stoltenberg, sounding much more hawkish than up to now, mentioned he anticipated “allies will agree to supply further help, together with cybersecurity help and tools to assist Ukraine shield towards chemical, organic, radiologic and nuclear threats.”

As Mr. Biden flew to Europe on Wednesday, each he and Mr. Stoltenberg warned of rising proof that Russia was actually getting ready to make use of chemical weapons in Ukraine.

These are questions that Europe has not confronted because the depths of the Chilly Warfare, when NATO had far fewer members, and Western Europe frightened a couple of Soviet assault headed into Germany. However few of the leaders set to satisfy in Brussels on Thursday ever needed to cope with these eventualities — and lots of have by no means had to consider nuclear deterrence or the results of the detonation of battlefield nuclear weapons, designed to be much less highly effective than people who destroyed Hiroshima. The worry is that Russia is extra seemingly to make use of these weapons, exactly as a result of they erode the excellence between typical and nuclear arms.

Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who heads the Armed Companies Committee, mentioned on Wednesday that if Mr. Putin used a weapon of mass destruction — chemical, organic or nuclear — “there can be penalties” even when the weapon’s use was confined to Ukraine. Mr. Reed mentioned radiation from a nuclear weapon, for example, may waft right into a neighboring NATO nation and be thought of an assault on a NATO member.

“It’s going to be a really troublesome name, but it surely’s a name that not simply the president however the complete NATO Council should make,” Mr. Reed instructed reporters, referring to the governing physique of the Western alliance.

“The underside line is it is a NATO choice,” Mr. Reed mentioned. “It gained’t be the president’s choice alone. I don’t suppose he’d wish to take motion unilaterally.”

One main concern the Tiger Group is taking a look at is the brink that would immediate the alliance to make use of navy drive in Ukraine. Mr. Biden has made clear that he’s enormously reluctant to to take action, fearing that direct confrontation with Russia may escalate the battle past management. “That’s World Warfare III,” he famous not too long ago.

A second group of officers, additionally created by Mr. Sullivan’s Feb. 28 memo, is taking a look at long-term alternatives for the US to enhance its geopolitical place on account of Mr. Putin’s invasion. Contained in the White Home, it has change into an article of religion that the Russian chief made an enormous strategic error — one that can diminish Russia’s standing, cripple its economic system and alienate potential allies for years. However it’s early within the battle, different officers warning, and that conclusion might show untimely.

Credit score…Lynsey Addario for The New York Occasions

The instant concern is what Mr. Putin might do subsequent — pushed by a need to rescue a failing navy effort or re-establish his credentials as a drive to be feared.

Officers consider the probabilities that Mr. Putin will resort to detonating a nuclear weapon are small. However Russia’s regular stream of reminders that it has its arsenal on the prepared, and will use it in response to something it perceives as an “existential menace,” has put Washington on excessive alert.

Mr. Biden will take up with allies “how one can cope with the rhetoric and the commentary popping out of Russia on this complete query of the potential use of nuclear weapons,” Mr. Sullivan instructed reporters on Wednesday.

“We haven’t seen something that’s made us regulate our posture, our nuclear posture, however it’s after all one thing we should proceed to remain in shut session with allies and companions on, in addition to talk on to the Russians.”

A number of officers mentioned the White Home and Pentagon have had some stress over how a lot element the Protection Division is keen to share on its extremely secretive conflict planning — particularly regarding responses to any use of nuclear weapons — even within the categorized setting of the Tiger Group. (The time period has been used for a few years to explain an emergency process drive contained in the Nationwide Safety Council.)

A U.S. official mentioned Mr. Biden remained adamant about preserving American forces out of Ukraine. However the official mentioned the administration believed it might be misguided to not carefully study the thresholds, if any, below which the president would reverse himself, or to be ready to cope with the implications of using weapons of mass destruction.

A senior administration official mentioned any use of a “small” tactical nuclear bomb by Russia — even inside Ukraine and never directed at a NATO member — would imply that “all bets are off” on the US and NATO staying out of the conflict. However when pushed, the official declined to put out the responses below dialogue.

The official mentioned American and NATO intelligence communities had not seen any exercise by Russian navy officers that prompt preparations to make use of a nuclear weapon. However he mentioned that in inside discussions, administration officers have been urging warning, as a result of there was extra at stake than simply Ukraine.

Credit score…Sputnik, through Reuters

If Mr. Putin did strike a NATO nation deliberately, he wouldn’t solely deliver the drive of the navy alliance to bear on Russia, but additionally most likely discover himself going through NATO troops inside Ukraine, Artis Pabriks, Latvia’s protection minister, instructed reporters touring in his nation this month with Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Workers.

“He’ll get Article 5,” Mr. Pabriks mentioned, in a reference to the NATO pledge that an assault on one alliance member is an assault on all.

“If he will get that, mainly that may additionally make us concerned in Ukraine,” Mr. Pabriks mentioned, including: “He has no manner out of that. So I don’t suppose he must be so silly.”

Senator Angus King of Maine, an impartial and a member of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Companies Committees, visited the Polish-Ukrainian border over the weekend, assembly with officers from allied nations, visiting a refugee processing heart and speaking with Ukrainians. Mr. King mentioned that as Russian forces battle to make headway, Mr. Putin may attempt to strike a diplomatic settlement, intensify his bombardment of Ukrainian cities and stage them, or lash out towards the West with a cyberattack.

“The fourth is escalate to de-escalate, which is a tactical nuclear weapon,” Mr. King mentioned, utilizing the time period for a Russian navy doctrine during which it might make use of a nuclear weapon as a warning — after which negotiate.

David E. Sanger reported from Brussels, and Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper and Julian Barnes from Washington.

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