As US president Biden meets with leaders throughout Europe, he is recklessly raising the stakes for the conflict in Ukraine. On Saturday, March 26, Biden delivered remarks in Warsaw, openly calling for the removal of President Putin and invoking NATO’s Article 5, which calls for the use of armed force if a NATO ally is attacked. The brazen call for regime change has many in the anti-war movement comparing Biden’s comment to the US’s long history of attempting to choose the leaders of other countries.
On March 24, after meeting with NATO allies, the European Union, and G-7 countries, US president Biden announced that the United States would respond “in kind” if Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine. The implication is that the US is open to retaliating with devastating weaponry against another nuclear power.
This announcement comes in tandem with the United States formally accusing Russia of war crimes in Ukraine. Notably, the United States has committed myriad war crimes of its own, including the use of chemical weapons in Iraq that have wreaked havoc on generations of victims who suffer weapons-related birth defects to this day.
Now the US accuses Russia of planning to use chemical weapons in Ukraine. What is their evidence? President Biden claims that a “clear sign” that Russia is planning to use chemical weapons is their so-called false accusation that the US is funding biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine.
“Russia has a long track record of accusing others of what they are either already doing or about to do, and that is the kind of projection that we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks. And it’s very scary,” Biden said in an interview on March 22.
Biolabs in Ukraine: Russian propaganda?
According to the United States mainstream media apparatus, the answer is a resounding yes. Mainstream coverage has called the alleged presence of US-funded biolabs in Ukraine a “false Russian biolab story”, “Russia’s false accusation”, “Russian propaganda”, among other things. “Fact-checking” websites and news outlets have attempted to “debunk” the biolabs claim.
But the reality is, there is no need to take either mainstream US media or the Russian government at their word. US government officials themselves have admitted to the existence of biological laboratories in Ukraine. During a Senate Foreign Relation Committee hearing on Ukraine on March 08, 2022, Senator Marco Rubio directly asked Under Secretary of State of Political Affairs Victoria Nuland if Ukraine had chemical or biological weapons. Nuland was circuitous but sincere, stating, “uh, Ukraine has, uh, biological research facilities.” Nuland continued, “We are now in fact quite concerned that Russian troops, Russian forces, may be seeking to, uh, gain control of [the labs], 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.”
This is an incredible admission that not only reveals that Ukraine does indeed have biolabs, but also suggests that the contents of these labs are dangerous enough that they can be wielded as weapons if permitted to fall into the wrong hands. This clip has circulated some parts of the US media, particularly the enormously popular right-wing network Fox News. The mainstreaming of Nuland’s admission has alarmed some segments of the corporate media, which has clumsily attempted to “disprove” her relatively rock-solid admission. The Washington Post, in an article titled, “How the right embraced Russian disinformation about ‘U.S. bioweapons labs’ in Ukraine”, writes:
“Asked on Thursday to expand on Nuland’s comment, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said medical facilities ‘all have equipment, pathogens or other things that you have to have restrictions around because you need to be sure it is being treated and handled appropriately.’ She said there was a concern the Russians could misuse materials, even if not designed for weapons, ‘in dangerous ways or create challenges for the population.’”
The Post’s “fact-checking” raises a crucial question: if the Ukrainian laboratories are not related specifically to bioweapons, and are instead purely medical facilities, why would Russia need to take advantage of them? Russia is a country with ultra-sophisticated medical research laboratories of its own, being one of the only countries in the world to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine. What could Russia access in a Ukrainian medical facility that it does not already have?
Most importantly, Nuland’s admission does not stand alone. Earlier this month CBS News national security correspondent David Martin said,
“A Pentagon official I talked to this morning said there is no movement of chemical weapons [on the part of Russia] into Ukraine…the concern is that the Russians seize one of these biomedical research facilities that Ukraine has where they do research on the pathogens like botulism and anthrax…and then blame it on Ukraine and the US because the US has been providing support for some of the research being done in those facilities.” [emphasis added]
CBS News is no Russian propagandist. Much less so is the US Embassy in Ukraine, which has an entire page in its website dedicated to a joint US–Ukraine “Biological Threat Reduction Program”. “The program accomplishes its bio-threat reduction mission through development of a bio-risk management culture; international research partnerships; and partner capacity for enhanced bio-security, bio-safety, and bio-surveillance measures,” reads the webpage. Further down, the “Laboratory Construction” section openly states, “BTRP has upgraded many laboratories for the Ministry of Health and the State Food Safety and Consumer Protection Service of Ukraine, reaching Biosafety Level 2. In 2019, BTRP constructed two laboratories for the latter, one in Kiev and one in Odessa.”
Against all evidence to the contrary, the press continues to raise alarm about Russia’s so-called false accusations. CNBC writes,
“Russia itself has accused Ukraine of operating chemical and biological weapons laboratories backed by the U.S. The claims were roundly rebuffed by Ukrainian and Western officials, with the U.S. describing them as “outright lies.” But they have caused alarm nonetheless, with many officials seeing them as Russia inventing and building a false narrative and pretext for using its own chemical weapons against Ukraine, a prospect described as ‘horrific’ by the U.S.”
A chemical weapons attack by Russia—something that has not happened and shows no evidence of happening in the future—is being described as “horrific” by a nation which has, in reality, used chemical weapons. This comes at the same time that Biden is breaking yet another campaign promise that nuclear weapons would be used for the sole purpose of deterring nuclear attacks. As The Wall Street Journal reports,
“Mr. Biden’s new decision, made earlier this week under pressure from allies, holds that the “fundamental role” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal will be to deter nuclear attacks. That carefully worded formulation, however, leaves open the possibility that nuclear weapons could also be used in “extreme circumstances” to deter enemy conventional, biological, chemical and possibly cyberattacks, said the officials.”
Biden is clearing the path for a nuclear escalation, which would devastate the people of the United States, of Russia, but primarily, the people of Ukraine. Biden invoked the slaughter and mass exodus of Ukrainian people in his recent speech in Warsaw. Yet Biden’s strong-arming, openly calling for the removal of Putin and invoking NATO’s Article 5 in that same speech, could prove devastating to Ukrainians.
What is needed is not more strong-arming and accusations of “Russian propaganda” by the United States. What is needed, as anti-war activists have pointed out, is for the US and NATO to take the initiative on diplomacy.