After Vladimir Putin’s decision to install tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, NATO has denounced Russia’s “destructive” and “reckless” language.
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The agency is “closely watching” the situation and has stated that the move will not modify its own nuclear strategy. The United States does not believe Russia is prepared to deploy nuclear weapons.
Belarus is bordered by Ukraine and NATO members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.
Ukraine has requested an emergency UN Security Council meeting to discuss the possible threat posed by President Putin’s announcement on Saturday. President Putin stated that Moscow would not hand over control of its weaponry to Minsk and that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a Kremlin ally and promoter of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, has long discussed the subject with him.
Ukraine claims the action breaches nuclear non-proliferation treaties, which President Putin denies, equating it to the US stationing weapons in Europe.
But, NATO branded Russia’s references to nuclear cooperation as “misleading” on Sunday.
“NATO partners fully observe their international responsibilities,” stated NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu.
The military alliance also tried to accuse Russia of consistently violating its own arms control obligations. One of them is the country’s choice to withdraw from the new START treaty, a 2010 agreement that limits the number of nuclear warheads held by the US and Russia and provides each the authority to investigate the other’s weapons.
Josep Borrell, the United States foreign policy leader, pushed Belarus to reject the pact with Putin, saying that the country would face additional penalties if it followed ahead with it.
“Belarus still has the option to halt it,” he remarked on Twitter.
On Sunday, Ukraine’s senior security adviser, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned Russia of holding Belarus hostage with nuclear weapons.
Oleksiy Danilov warned on Twitter that Russia’s ambitions would lead to “internal instability” in Belarus, and that anti-Russian sentiments would rise.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, an exiled Belarusian opposition leader, claimed Russia’s placement of nuclear weapons in her nation “massively defies the desire of the Belarusian population” and would render it a potential target for retaliation strikes.
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Nevertheless, Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, told the BBC that Ukraine was used to Russian nuclear threats and that the deployments in Belarus just wouldn’t influence the outcome of the battle.
“They cannot prevail in this conflict as it’s untenable and impossible to win for them,” he added. “They cannot beat Ukraine given that we have been dealing with the hypothetical danger of a nuclear strike since day one of the large-scale invasion.”
Mr. Sak stated that Russia’s behavior has been nothing new because it had been resettling military hardware in Belarus since the beginning of the war in 2022.
Russia will begin training personnel to handle the weapons the following week. President Putin stated that the building of a strategic nuclear weapons storage unit in Belarus will be concluded by July 1.
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The declaration comes just days after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s tour to Moscow, in which Russia and China approved a joint statement declaring that “all nuclear powers should not implement their nuclear weapons beyond their country boundaries, and they have to pull back all nuclear weapons deployed overseas.”