Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo) said Sunday that Russian forces using chemical weapons in Ukraine would be a “red line” for the U.S. and NATO to enter the conflict. On Meet the Press, the GOP House member said the West needs to stop telling Putin what we will not do and keep all options on the table.
Unmistakably, the minute NATO — which means U.S. — boots are on the ground in Ukraine, that’s the start of global war. And to be clear, does Cheney or any other advocate for “red lines” or no-fly zones believe Putin will not use his nuclear arsenal if backed into a corner?
Cheney — who has never served in the U.S. military — went on to speculate that the Russian military is not as powerful as Putin or the West believed before the invasion. She added the U.S. should make its willingness known to “change the calculation.”
Cheney is not alone in her “red line” statement. Though not using the specific term, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield declared Sunday that the response will be “aggressive” if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine.
Former President Barack Obama used “red line” in 2013 while threatening the Syrian government with airstrikes in the event it used chemical weapons in its civil war. President Donald Trump four years later launched a missile strike on Syria after a chemical attack by President Bashar Assad’s forces.
The Kremlin earlier this month accused the U.S. of developing chemical or biological weapons in Ukrainian laboratories. Disinformation poured out of Moscow as well as China, and many in the Ukraine and U.S. are concerned Russia is setting up a “false flag” operation against Ukrainian targets.
As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted, a great clue to Russian intentions is in what they accuse others of planning.
The facts are the U.S. supports public health and veterinary health labs in Ukraine and several other former Soviet-bloc countries. The program began in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union to help secure and dismantle biochemical weapons programs in several of the new nations.
What Cheney and some of her congressional colleagues should consider is not some supposed weakness in the Russian military, despite the gallant opposition thrown in its path by Ukrainian forces. Instead, the focus has to be on Putin’s nuclear arsenal, which is clearly not weak, and the specter of an aging and unstable authoritarian backed into a corner with thousands of nuclear triggers at his fingertips.