BRUSSELS—President Biden met with NATO leaders Thursday to agree on new measures to help Ukraine battle Russia’s invasion and address growing concerns Moscow might use chemical, biological or other unconventional weapons in its monthlong war.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s emergency summit is the first in a day-long string of gatherings Mr. Biden has planned with European allies and other world leaders, as they map out their next steps helping Ukraine defend against the attack launched last month by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
With Russian forces facing unexpectedly strong and lethal opposition from Ukrainian forces, Western leaders say they are increasingly worried Mr. Putin may resort to using weapons of mass destruction. NATO officials are grappling with the question of what actions by Russia would count as red lines that could prompt more-direct involvement by the alliance.
The potential for chemical warfare in the conflict is “a real threat,” Mr. Biden said Wednesday as he left Washington.
“Allies agreed to supply equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after the summit. That includes equipment to detect such weapons and protect against them, as well as medical support and decontamination equipment, he said.
NATO, he said, also has activated chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense forces. “We are taking measures both to support Ukraine but also to defend ourselves,” he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the NATO leaders and asked them for further support, lamenting that answers haven’t always been forthcoming. “You have at least 20,000 tanks! Ukraine asked for a percent, one percent of all your tanks to be given or sold to us! But we do not have a clear answer yet. The worst thing during the war is not having clear answers to requests for help,” he said.
He did not revive his appeal for NATO membership or for a no-fly zone, according to senior Biden administration officials.
“We are determined to do all we can to support Ukraine,” said Mr. Stoltenberg, whose mandate was extended into 2023 amid the crisis. He also affirmed the alliance’s open-door policy to welcome new members. Moscow has long bristled at the prospect of countries close to its borders joining the Western alliance.
NATO has been walking a tightrope of providing Ukraine with weapons and other support, without being directly drawn into the fighting. Mr. Stoltenberg said direct NATO involvement, such as establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, could carry high risks for the war to broaden.
In his remarks at the NATO gathering, Mr. Biden stressed the need to strengthen the alliance’s eastern flank and said he welcomed pledges of increased defense spending from various countries, officials said.
NATO leaders agreed to deploy more battle groups—collections of combat-ready forces—to the eastern flank, doubling their number to eight.
Russia’s potential use of chemical weapons was raised in the discussion among NATO leaders, officials said, adding that there was recognition that the alliance needed to continue to prepare for and respond to different contingencies.
Accidental release of chemical agents is also worrying some members. “We are concerned when Russian aggression forces are shelling chemical plants and similar facilities,” Slovenia’s Prime Minister Janez Janša said ahead of the NATO summit. “This could trigger a large-scale disaster.”
Allies also brought up the need to call on China to not support Russia in its war against Ukraine, officials said.
Mr. Biden, who arrived in Brussels on Wednesday, will also be meeting with leaders of the European Union and the Group of Seven leading industrial countries. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have flown to Brussels for the meetings.
The US and EU have imposed the biggest coordinated package of sanctions ever levied against a major economy in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Senior Biden administration officials said G-7 leaders would discuss the economic spillover effects of the conflict and announce an agreement on coordinating sanctions enforcement. The US also imposed a new round of sanctions on more than 400 political figures, oligarchs and defense companies.
According to US officials, Mr. Biden’s new sanctions will cover more than 300 members of the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, as well as 17 board members of Russian financial institution Sovcombank; Herman Gref, a longtime Putin adviser who leads Sberbank; and elite Russian businessman Gennady Timchenko. The White House said 48 large Russian state-owned defense entities would be part of the new round of sanctions.
The White House said the G-7 and EU would also announce a new initiative aimed at preventing Russia from evading sanctions already in place. US officials said one example will be closing down ways for the Russian central bank to prop up the ruble.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda on Thursday said sanctions should also target Russia’s middle class amid signs popular support for Mr. Putin may be growing.
During his meeting with the European Council, which groups EU national leaders, Mr. Biden pledged more than $1 billion in new funding to address humanitarian needs as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, as well as severe impacts around the world, including a marked rise in food insecurity.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
What do you hope to see come out of today’s NATO summit? Join the conversation below.
The US will also open its borders to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russia’s attack, administration officials said. More than 3.6 million people have fled the fighting in Ukraine since the conflict began, most bound for Poland.
The US is expected to make an announcement on Friday on enhancing European energy security and reducing the continent’s dependence on Russian natural gas, Mr. Sullivan said.
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, NATO released estimates indicating Russia may have lost as much as a fifth of its combat forces in about a month of fighting in Ukraine. US military analysts have estimated lower casualty figures.
Up to 40,000 Russian troops have been killed, wounded, taken prisoner or are missing in Ukraine, a senior NATO military official said. Russia may also have lost 10% of its equipment, impairing Moscow’s ability to maintain its pace of operations, another NATO official said. Moscow hasn’t released updated casualty figures since acknowledging on March 2 the deaths of 498 troops in Ukraine.
Write to Tarini Parti at Tarini.Parti@wsj.com and Robert Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8