Canada and the United States must draw a red line on nuclear and chemical attacks in Ukraine, says former president

Ukraine’s former president urges Canada to back US official’s move to allow US military force to defend embattled Eastern European country if Russian forces step up in chemical, biological or nuclear attacks.

Petro Poroshenko, who served as president from 2014 to 2019, made the remarks in an interview with CBC News.

On Sunday, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois introduced a resolution that, if passed, would authorize US President Joe Biden to use US forces to respond in the event that weapons of mass destruction are deployed in Ukraine.

He unveiled the proposal on the political program of the CBS network Face the Nation. He said the move was more to warn Moscow and signal its resolve than to join the war.

Poroshenko said that would be precisely the right signal to send at this stage of the war – when Russian troops are making what appear to be limited gains on the conventional battlefield in eastern and southern parts of Ukraine.

As one of Ukraine’s earliest and strongest supporters, Canada must support Kinzinger’s proposal, he said.

“I really need the support of this initiative from Adam [Kinzinger] Canadian parliamentarians and the Canadian government,” Poroshenko said in an interview at his European Solidarity party headquarters in Kyiv.

Republican Adam Kinzinger said his bill would send Russia a warning. (Kevin Dietsch/Associated Press)

He said that while Ukraine doesn’t “want Canadian soldiers to fight here for us now,” it wants political support to “stop a nuclear war” and prevent the use of other weapons of mass destruction.

Russia has shown no obvious signs of readiness to release chemical, biological or tactical nuclear weapons. A US defense official, speaking to Reuters last week, suggested a nuclear strike was not being considered at this time, even though Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised the readiness level of the country’s nuclear forces .

But there is a lingering fear in the intelligence community and among military experts inside and outside Ukraine that some sort of escalation is imminent due to Russia’s limited gains in his war against Ukraine.

Last week, Canada’s House of Commons unanimously passed a motion calling the Russian attacks in Ukraine “genocide.” Many parliamentarians said there was “abundant evidence” of large-scale war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Anna Shevchenko, 35, saves some of her belongings from her house in Irpin, near kyiv, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. The house, built by Shevchenko’s grandparents, was almost completely destroyed by a bombing in late March. (Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press)

The motion lists war crimes allegedly committed by Russian forces: mass atrocities, systematic murder of Ukrainian civilians, desecration of corpses, forcible transfer of Ukrainian children, torture, bodily harm and rape.

It’s unclear what support there is for Kinzinger’s Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) bill.

Similar legislative mechanisms were used to enable the US War on Terror following the September 11, 2001, attacks and for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. US lawmakers only recently repealed these authorizations, which gave the president broad powers to wage war.

Republicans and Democrats argued last year that those specific permissions had been expanded beyond recognition. The Obama and Trump administrations blocked previous attempts for more than a decade to repeal the measures.

WATCH | The Russian Foreign Minister warns that the West’s supply of arms to Ukraine risks aggravating the war:

Russian Foreign Minister warns NATO risks ‘World War III’ with arms delivery to Ukraine

The head of Russian diplomacy warned Ukraine against the outbreak of a third world war and said the threat of nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated”. 4:16

Would Moscow care?

For this reason, critics in Washington have suggested that Kinzinger’s initiative may receive a lukewarm response.

Kinzinger said his resolution would establish “a red line” for Russia.

A Canadian expert on Ukrainian affairs said he doesn’t think Moscow would heed such warnings and doubts the Canadian government has an appetite for such a bold statement.

“Listen, there’s been a lot of lines that have been crossed [by Russia]said Dominique Arel, holder of the chair of Ukrainian studies at the University of Ottawa.

Russia crossed two red lines by launching a full-scale invasion and targeting civilians – something many observers did not expect, Arel said.

Photos provided by Maxar Technologies show the Donetsk Regional Academic Drama Theater in Mariupol on March 14, before the Russian bombardment, left, and March 29, right. The bombing occurred on March 16 and stands out as the deadliest known attack on civilians to date in the war in Ukraine. (Maxar Technologies/Associated Press)

Canada, he pointed out, was among the last countries to ship arms and ammunition to Ukraine, even after it became clear an invasion was imminent. He said he would not rule out the possibility that Canadian parliamentarians would accept Kinzinger’s idea, but he questions the effectiveness of such a political signal from the allies.

“We are now in territory that the Canadian Parliament has called genocide – a political statement,” Arel said. “But with nuclear weapons, look, it’s the complete unknown.

“So I’m not sure there’s any value, politically, that there can be a bill in Congress. I’m not sure the bill will actually pass because the biggest force here is , for me, strategic ambiguity.

“So you’re not actually saying what you’re going to do, like sending soldiers to Ukraine, but you’re making it clear that it’s an absolute taboo and you can’t cross that line.”

WATCH | Investigators collect evidence of war crimes in Bucha:

Building a war crimes case amid horror, loss to Bucha

Warning: This story contains graphic details | The bodies of civilians killed in Bucha are still being processed in a morgue as survivors recount the horror of the Russian takeover and officials continue to build a war crimes case. 2:09