Russian Nuclear Weapons in Belarus: What is Putin Counting on?

March 27,2023 1050
Russian Nuclear Weapons in Belarus: What is Putin Counting on?

With its intent to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, the Kremlin has inserted one more cartridge into the Russian nuclear roulette.

It is “yet another provocative step by Putin’s criminal regime that undermines basic principles of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the architecture of nuclear disarmament and the international security system as a whole,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday, demanding to convene an extraordinary meeting of the U.N. Security Council immediately.

On Saturday, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would station tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus and would start training Belarusian crews to operate the weapons next week. He also said that a number of Iskanders – mobile short-range ballistic missile systems – have already been transferred to Belarus, and the construction of a storage facility for these weapons there will be completed by July 1.

The announcement comes only days after Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow issued a joint statement saying “all nuclear powers must not deploy their nuclear weapons beyond their national territories, and they must withdraw all nuclear weapons deployed abroad,” according to BBC.

The EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a tweet that “Belarus hosting Russian nuclear weapons would mean an irresponsible escalation & threat to European security. Belarus can still stop it, it is their choice. The EU stands ready to respond with further sanctions.”

NATO has criticized Putin for what it called his “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric, Reuters reports, calling the plan “one of Russia’s clearest nuclear signals since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine 13 months ago.”

“NATO is vigilant, and we are closely monitoring the situation,” the alliance’s spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, stated. She added, however, that “we have not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture that would lead us to adjust our own.”

The United States played down concerns about Russia’s planned nuke deployment in Belarus, according to Reuters.

“I can tell you we’ve seen nothing that would indicate Mr. Putin is preparing to use tactical nuclear weapons in any way whatsoever in Ukraine,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CBC. “And I can also tell you that we haven’t seen anything that would cause us to change our own strategic nuclear deterrent posture.”

Like everything Kremlin says or does, this move is based on lies. First, Putin claims that it does not violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It’s a lie because the very first article of the NPF reads:

“Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.”

Second, Putin used Britain’s intent to give Ukraine shells containing depleted uranium as a pretext for his intent to station Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

“Putin said the move was triggered by Britain’s decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium. The Russian leader earlier made a false claim that the rounds have nuclear components,” CBC points out.

It’s a lie again because the British Army has been using depleted uranium as a standard component in its ammunition for decades. According to the U.K. Ministry of Defense, it has nothing to do with nuclear weapons or capabilities. “Russia knows this but is deliberately trying to disinform,” an MoD spokesperson said.

And the third lie is mentioned above – the joint statement by Putin and Xi. The only thing here is that we don’t know whether Putin lied to Xi, too, in this case.

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