Belarus says it is forced to host Russian nuclear weapons “because of Western pressure” after the country was warned it had become Putin’s “nuclear hostage”.
- This comes after the Russian president announced plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus
- The decision alarmed Western countries and was denounced by officials
Belarus said on Tuesday it was forced to host Russian nuclear weapons due to “unprecedented” Western pressure, insisting their deployment did not violate international agreements.
Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend announced plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in the Moscow-allied country, drawing condemnation from the West.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Minsk said that “Belarus is obliged to respond to strengthen its security and defense capacity.”
It said Minsk had come under “unprecedented” political and economic pressure from the United States and its allies.
Belarus said it would not take control of the weapons and their deployment “does not in any way contravene” the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he intends to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus
This move appears to be yet another attempt by Putin to raise the stakes in the conflict in Ukraine
Lukashenko said Minsk had come under “unprecedented” political and economic pressure from the United States and its allies.
Belarusian Army’s Su-25 jet fighters fly during a military parade commemorating Independence Day in Minsk, Belarus, Wednesday, July 3, 2019.
A Russian Iskander-K missile is fired during a military exercise at a training ground in Russia
Minsk allowed Russia to use its territory as a staging ground for Moscow’s attack on Ukraine last year.
Since then, the two countries have conducted military exercises on Belarusian soil and increased cooperation between their militaries.
“Military cooperation between Belarus and Russia takes place in strict compliance with international law,” the foreign ministry said.
Putin’s plans to place nuclear weapons on the doorstep of the European Union have prompted calls for new sanctions against Moscow.
With fears of a nuclear war growing since Putin sent troops into Ukraine, experts believe any Russian strike would likely involve small “tactical” battlefield weapons rather than high-yield “strategic” long-range nuclear weapons.
Autocratic President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994. The West has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Minsk over its suppression of political dissent and its role as a launching pad for Moscow’s assault on Ukraine.
Putin’s decision to station nuclear weapons in Minsk follows the UK’s recently announced commitment to supply depleted uranium armor-piercing tank shells to Ukraine.
As well as giving away a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, we will provide ammunition, including armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium, Annabelle Goldie, UK Secretary of State for Defense said March 20 on the British Parliament website. These shells are very effective in defeating modern tanks and armored vehicles.
This is the first time since the mid-1990s that Moscow has nuclear weapons outside the country.
The Russian president has been adamant that he will not flout global efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, as the United States has done the same for years.
He added that Moscow will not actually transfer control of weapons to Minsk.
He claimed that Russia has deployed 10 aircraft in Belarus capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons.
Moscow has already transferred a number of Iskander-K tactical missile systems to the country, according to Putin.
The missiles can be used to launch nuclear weapons by Russia.
In 1992, four former Soviet states (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine) agreed that each nation’s nuclear weapons would be retained solely by Russia, with the transfer of warheads completed by 1996.