Vladimir Putin has mentioned Russia plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, marking Moscow’s newest try to make use of the specter of a nuclear struggle to ramp up tensions with the US and Nato over the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s president mentioned work could be accomplished on constructing storage items for tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus on July 1, a transfer he likened to US nuclear deployments in Europe.
Although Putin mentioned Russia wouldn’t switch management of the tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus or violate its nuclear non-proliferation obligations, the choice is likely one of the Kremlin’s most vital steps with its arsenal because it invaded Ukraine greater than a yr in the past.
Putin mentioned the deployment was in response to a longstanding request from Belarus’s autocratic chief Alexander Lukashenko, who has allowed Russia to make use of the nation as a launch pad for assaults on Ukraine, thereby shifting his nation deeper into the Kremlin’s embrace.
“There’s nothing uncommon right here: to start with, the US has been doing this for many years,” Putin mentioned. “They positioned their tactical nuclear weapons in six completely different allied Nato international locations in Europe. [ . . . ] we’ve agreed to do the identical factor, with out, I stress, violating our worldwide non-proliferation obligations,” he added.
“They’ve [tactical nuclear weapons] in sure international locations, put together the supply methods, and prepare the crews. We’re planning on doing the identical factor.”
It was unclear when work started on the nuclear storage services in Belarus or when Russia would deploy the weapons there. Putin mentioned Russia had already outfitted 10 Belarusian plane with the aptitude to hold tactical nuclear weapons. Russia will start coaching Belarusian forces on the Iskander missile complicated, which might carry the tactical nuclear weapons, in April, Putin added.
Putin has usually made veiled threats to make use of “all of the means at our disposal” to defend Russia’s territorial conquests and warn off western help for Ukraine’s army.
Within the autumn, when nuclear tensions with the west had been at a peak, Putin thought of utilizing a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine however finally determined it could give Russia no actual battlefield benefit, in keeping with folks accustomed to the matter.
Not like strategic nuclear warheads — that are designed to be launched from hundreds of miles away on submarines, long-range bombers or intercontinental ballistic missiles, and may obliterate complete cities — tactical nuclear weapons carry a smaller payload for destroying targets in a selected space.
Whereas the US gave up all however 230 of its tactical nuclear warheads after the top of the Chilly Warfare, Russia nonetheless maintains 2,000 of them and may deploy them from some typical methods, such because the Iskander missile complicated.
The Russian president mentioned he had made the choice after the UK introduced earlier this week it had provided anti-tank rounds containing depleted uranium to Ukraine, a transfer he framed as a part of a nuclear escalation of the battle.
The US and the UK dismissed Putin’s declare, saying the rounds — that are extra dense than lead and valued for his or her armour-piercing capabilities — solely have typical makes use of.
US Nationwide Safety Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson mentioned the US has not seen any indicators Russia is shifting in direction of utilizing a nuclear weapon.
“We haven’t seen any purpose to regulate our personal strategic nuclear posture nor any indications Russia is getting ready to make use of a nuclear weapon,” Watson mentioned.
She added: “We stay dedicated to the collective defence of the Nato alliance.”
A US official mentioned Putin’s announcement could possibly be political signalling in response to Belarus Freedom Day, which is marked by the nation’s opposition. The US on Friday imposed sanctions and visa bans on Belarusian officers and others to recognise the vacation.