Nuclear stakes are rising around Ukraine. In response to UK’s plan to supply depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine, Putin has announced deploying of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Moreover, the U.S. has already deployed nuclear weapons in NATO countries around Russia,
Media reports said:
The EU will respond with further sanctions if Belarus presses ahead with hosting Russian nuclear weapons on its soil, the bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has stated.
Borrell called the decision to transfer tactical weapons to Belarus “an irresponsible escalation” by Moscow.
“Belarus hosting Russian nuclear weapons would mean an irresponsible escalation and threat to European security,” Borrell tweeted on Sunday. “Belarus can still stop it, it is their choice,” he continued, adding that “the EU stands ready to respond with further sanctions.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed on Saturday that his country’s tactical nuclear weapons will arrive in Belarus as early as this summer. Putin said that he made the decision after the UK announced it would transfer toxic depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine, a move he described as a sign of London’s “absolute recklessness.”
Belarus has already been extensively sanctioned by the EU and US since the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine last February. Brussels has blacklisted more than 20 Belarusian officials, cut five of the nation’s banks off from the SWIFT system, and imposed numerous trade restrictions.
Prior to 2022, the EU banned Belarusian flights from operating in its airspace and imposed five separate sets of sanctions in response to President Alexander Lukashenko’s 2020 election victory, which the EU deemed fraudulent.
In his announcement on Saturday, Putin explained that any nuclear weapons transferred to Belarus would remain under Russian control.
“There is nothing unusual,” about this arrangement, Putin stated, explaining that “the united States has been doing this for decades” by keeping its own nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Türkiye.
“They have long deployed tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allies,” he said. “We agreed that we will do the same, without violating our international obligations on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.”
Nuclear Activists Blast Russian Announcement
Another media report said:
Russia’s decision to place tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus significantly increases risks of a nuclear stand-off amid the Ukraine crisis, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) said on Saturday.
In a statement on Twitter, the activist organization, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its efforts to achieve a universal ban on nuclear arms, said that it “condemns this extremely dangerous escalation which makes the use of nuclear weapons more likely.”
It added that, given the Ukraine conflict, “the likelihood of miscalculation or misinterpretation is extremely high. Sharing nuclear weapons makes the situation much worse and risks catastrophic humanitarian consequences.”
ICAN also noted that hosting another country’s atomic weapons is prohibited under the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). However, this framework has never been signed by Belarus, Russia, China, or any Western nuclear power. In 2017, the US, the UK and France claimed that this initiative “clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment,” while Russia said it “runs counter to its national interests.”
The organization’s statement comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that his nation’s nuclear weapons could arrive in Belarus as early as this summer, explaining that the move was prompted by the UK’s recent decision to provide Ukraine with depleted uranium shells.
He also said that the deployment comes after repeated requests from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, while pointing out that the U.S. has long stationed such armaments in Europe, namely in Germany, Türkiye, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy.
Commenting on the move, Germany described it as “further attempt at nuclear intimidation,” while Kiev called for new sanctions against Russia.
However, the U.S. struck a more cautious tone, with National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson saying that Washington had not seen any signs Russia was planning to use a nuclear weapon, adding that the U.S. had no reason so far to adjust its strategic posture.
Russia’s Plan In Belarus
An earlier media report said:
Russian tactical nuclear weapons might arrive in Belarus as early as this summer, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed on Saturday. Moscow is completing the construction of a specialized storage facility for such arms, amid repeated calls by Minsk to deploy them on its soil, he added.
The site in Belarus will be ready by July 1, Putin told Russia 24 TV. The president also said that Moscow does not plan to hand over control of any tactical nuclear weapons to Minsk and that it would only deploy its own arms to Belarus. He did not specify when exactly the weapons would be transported to the new site.
The move was prompted by the UK’s decision to provide Kiev with depleted uranium munitions, Putin explained. The UK announced earlier in March that it plans to send the shells to Ukraine for use with Challenger 2 battle tanks. Moscow blasted the move as a sign of “absolute recklessness, irresponsibility and impunity” on the part of London and Washington.
The U.S. dismissed Russia’s concerns by calling depleted uranium shells a “commonplace type of munition” that has “been in use for decades.”
The Russian Defense Ministry then warned that their use could trigger nothing short of a radioactive disaster in Ukraine, citing the aftermath of the use of such munitions by NATO in Iraq.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly raised the issue of threats posed to his nation by nuclear weapons deployed by the U.S. to EU countries. In October 2022, he pointed to “nuclear sharing” talks between Washington and Warsaw, warning that nuclear weapons could be placed in Poland, which borders Belarus.
Minsk needs to take “appropriate measures” to address this threat, Lukashenko said at that time, adding that he would discuss the matter with Moscow.
Currently, US nuclear weapons are deployed in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Türkiye. In 2021, Russia called on the weapons to be repatriated as part of its security proposals, but the U.S. and NATO refused.