Putin’s new threat to the West: Russia planting nukes in Belarus near the Polish border is a ‘blackmail tactic’ and tests how far the US will go to defend Europe, academic warns
Russia’s planting of nuclear weapons in Belarus is a “blackmail tactic” to threaten the West, a leading academic warned yesterday.
Mark Almond, director of the Crisis Research Institute in Oxford, said President Vladimir Putin’s decision to station them near the Polish border was intended to add “layers of uncertainty” to Russian strategy.
Because the weapons are medium-range tactical devices, they pose no risk to American cities — unlike intercontinental ballistic missiles that are housed in Siberian silos.
“Belarusian weapons pose a much bigger threat to Western Europe,” Dr Almond said.
“It begs the question for Washington – if they are not directly threatened, how far are they willing to go in risking nuclear suicide in defense of European allies?”
Speaking at Russia’s flagship economic forum in St. Petersburg on June 16, Putin told those gathered that the first warheads had arrived in Belarus.
Belarus has already started receiving Russian nuclear weapons, some of which President Alexander Lukashenko (with Putin on June 9) has boasted of being three times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Pictured: Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile systems drive down a street ahead of a military parade in Moscow on May 9
“It’s a blackmail tactic that dates back to when Putin was a KGB agent in East Germany during the cruise missile crisis of the 1980s.
“It’s a ploy to try to decouple the Western alliance on Ukraine by threatening neighbors like Poland that serve as supply routes for our military aid.”
He said the Kremlin’s decision offered Russia other benefits, including its main ally in the region, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
These include ambiguity over gun control. Russia is monitoring, but Belarus can claim it could deploy them if the fighting crosses its border from Ukraine.
Abramovich blocks aid
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich is reneging on his promise to send the £2.3 billion from his sale of Chelsea FC to the victims of Putin’s war with Ukraine.
Roman Abramovich, pictured in 2021, had pledged to send £2.3billion from his sale of Chelsea FC to war victims
Abramovich, forced to leave the club due to his close ties to the Russian president, received the funds more than a year ago.
The Mail on Sunday understands they could be released in Ukraine with his permission, but he refuses to sign them unless a sum is offered to war-affected Russian citizens. Neither the UK nor the European Commission will agree with this. Last night Labor MP Chris Bryant said: ‘The people of Ukraine need help to rebuild their nation and their lives now, not in the distant future.
Abramovich’s UK firm, Millhouse Capital, has been approached for comment.
Western allies will also be wary of supplying weapons to Ukraine if there is a risk that they will be directed at Belarus and increase the threat of nuclear attack.
Additionally, Belarusian protest groups will be deterred from overthrowing their government, which would force Russia to intervene to protect its nuclear assets.
Mr Putin told the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday that the transfer of the warheads to Belarus would be completed by the end of the summer.
He insisted they would only be used if Russian territory or statehood was threatened, adding that it was a warning to anyone “thinking of inflicting a strategic defeat on us”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he saw “no indication” that Russia was preparing to use a nuclear weapon.