Putin’s Plan to Move Tactical Nukes to Belarus Provokes Outrage

March 27, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement over the weekend to move tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus provoked outrage from international organizations.

Along with announcing that he had a deal with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to station tactical nukes on Belarusian territory, Putin also said that Russia had already moved 10 aircraft to Belarus that are capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons.

Belarus shares a border with Ukraine.

Calling Putin’s plan a “threat to European security, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the EU “stands ready to respond with further sanctions.” However, the Kremlin said Monday that Western sanctions would not deter it from going forward. 

Ukraine, meanwhile, has called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council—of which Russia is a permanent member. In a written statement, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry asserted that moving nuclear weapons to Belarus would undermine nuclear nonproliferation treaties.

In its own statement Sunday, NATO called Putin’s nuclear rhetoric “dangerous and irresponsible.”

The alliance “is vigilant,” NATO’s statement went on. “We are closely monitoring the situation & we have not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture that would lead us to adjust our own.”

In the United States, a statement from the National Security Council echoed NATO, “We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture nor any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.”

NSC spokesperson John Kirby said Sunday, ““We’ve in fact seen no indication that [Putin] has any intention to use nuclear weapons, period, inside Ukraine.”

Putin has long threatened using nuclear weapons since invading Ukraine on February 24, 2022. However, his rhetoric had died down in recent months—until the one-year mark of the war last month. That’s when Putin announced that he was suspending participation in the 2010 New START treaty. Only hours later, though, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it would respect the nuclear weapons caps proposed under that treaty, and that Russia would continue to exchange information about ballistic missile test launches, as per earlier agreements with the U.S.

But during that same week, U.S. officials said Russia carried out a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, though the test appeared to have failed.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has previously warned Putin against nuclear threats. The announcement over the weekend about moving the nukes to Belarus comes after Xi’s three-day meeting with Putin in Moscow last week.

It’s unclear whether Xi and Putin discussed Russia’s nuclear weapons during the visit. Amid his weekend announcement, though, Putin said any reports that Russia was creating a military alliance with China were “absolutely untrue.” 

PHOTO Source: Kremlin.ru

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