Russia isn’t likely to use chemical weapons in Ukraine – unless Putin grows desperate

April 12, 2022
Jeffrey Knopf

This article is part of a larger Ukraine collection by CNS:
Putin’s War with Ukraine: Voices of CNS Experts on the Russian Invasion

The following is an excerpt from The Conversation.

Reports emerged from Ukraine on April 11, 2022, alleging that Russia had used a drone to drop an unknown chemical agent in the besieged southern city of Mariupol.

There has been no official confirmation of these reports as of April 12. But the Pentagon has said the news reflects U.S. concern about Russia’s “potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine.”

chemical weapon can be any chemical that is used to harm people, including to injure or kill them. Many substances have been used as chemical weapons. Nerve agents are the deadliest, because they require a smaller dose to be fatal.

As an expert who has studied the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war, I have thought since Russia first attacked Ukraine that the likelihood of Russia using chemical weapons there is low. Russia has little political or military motivation to use them and would face strong international rebuke and possible military consequences for this kind of attack.

But as recent reports might indicate, Russian use remains a possibility under certain circumstances. This is particularly true if Russian President Vladimir Putin believes chemical weapons are the only way to break a stalemate in a key battle zone.

Chemical weapons in Syria

The ongoing Syrian civil war offers the most recent example of widespread chemical weapons attacks on civilians.

There have been reports of more than 300 chemical attacks in Syria since the war began in 2012. A joint team from the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigated some of the larger attacks, and conclusively attributed several to the Assad regime.

Continue reading at The Conversation.

Comments Are Closed