Russian forces have bombed schools, hospitals and other civilian centers within the four weeks of their assault on Ukraine. Now, global leaders are concerned Russia is about to employ the use of chemical weapons.
Earlier in the month, Russia accused Ukraine of harboring chemical weapons, which U.S. officials believe to be a “false-flag” strategy to give Russia justification to use its own chemical or biological weaponry.
The term “red line” was also used by then-President Barack Obama in 2013. Obama had threatened airstrikes against Syrian government forces as a consequence for using chemical weapons. In that situation, Russian leader Vladimir Putin offered to force close ally Syrian President Bashar Assad to surrender his chemical arsenal if Obama promised not to bomb.
The deal was accepted but as a result, “red line” became shorthand on the right for “weakness and indecision,” POLITICO’s Michael Crowley wrote in 2016. Then-President Donald Trump launched a missile strike on Syria in 2017 after another chemical attack.
With the current crisis in Ukraine, President Joe Biden has warned that Russia would endure “severe consequences” if chemical weapons were unleashed.