Biden warns Russia will pay a “severe price” if country uses chemical weapons in Ukraine
WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden warned on Friday that Russia will pay a “severe price” if the country uses chemical weapons in Ukraine. “I’m not going to speak about the intelligence, but Russia will pay a severe price if they use chemicals,” Biden told CNN’s Arlette Saenz following remarks announcing further sanctions and export controls against Russia.
The US government has previously found that the Russian government used chemical weapons in both the 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny and in 2018 against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in England. Both determinations by the US led to sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, which requires the President to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions if a country is found to have used chemical weapons. Additionally, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, whose regime is supported by Russia, used chemical weapons in an attack in 2017.
The US president also announced Friday that the US, along with the G7 and European Union, will call for revoking “most favored nation” status for Russia, referred to as permanent normal trade relations in the US. Biden said the move would hold Russian President Vladimir Putin “even more accountable for his aggression against Ukraine.”
“Each of our nations will take steps to deny ‘most favored nation’ status to Russia. A most favored nation status designation means two countries have agreed to trade with each other under the best possible terms — low tariffs, few barriers to trade and the highest possible imports allowed,” Biden said.
The US President explained what the move means: “In the United States, we call this permanent normal trade relations, PNTR, but it’s the same thing. Revoking PNTR for Russia is going to make it harder for Russia to do business with the United States and doing it in unison with other nations that make up half of the global economy will be another crushing blow to the Russian economy that’s already suffering very badly from our sanctions.”
The step requires an act of Congress. Following Biden’s announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will take the legislation next week “to formalize this revocation, and it is our hope that it will receive a strong, bipartisan vote.”
The move was one of multiple new actions on trade expected to be made by the Biden administration toward Russia. The United States will also ban imports of alcohol and seafood, such as vodka and caviar, from Russia, a White House official told CNN.
Each country is expected to implement this measure based on its own national processes. Sources familiar with the move made note of congressional efforts to revoke Russia’s permanent normal trade relations. Congress is expected to introduce legislation following Biden’s announcement. CNN reported Thursday that bipartisan talks in the Senate had been taking shape to take more aggressive action on Russia’s trade status — after the White House effectively watered down the House-passed bill banning importing Russian oil, natural gas and coal into the US.