Belarus boosts isolation by taking Russia nuclear weapons
Belarus says it was forced to install Russian nuclear weapons because of Nato pressure amid widespread condemnation.
Minsk said the deployments did not violate international non-proliferation agreements as Belarus itself would not have control over the weapons.
Belarus borders Ukraine and Nato members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Putin recently said deploying tactical nuclear weapons is possible “without violating our international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation” and Belarus’s fellow strongman Alexander Lukashenko had “agreed to do the same”.
Ukraine disagrees, saying the move violates nuclear non-proliferation agreements.
Putin said Lukashenko has long asked the Kremlin to station nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Russia has helped modernise Belarusian warplanes to allow them to carry nuclear weapons, which Lukashenko has repeatedly mentioned.
The Belarus regime has been dependent on Putin since pro-democracy protesters threatened Lukashenko’s rule after the 2020 presidential election, which was universally condemned as fixed.
Military analysts have questioned the viability of Russia’s nuclear arsenal given the level of corruption that appears to infect every level of its armed forces. An effective nuclear deterrent requires regular inspections by a specialist team while every other aspect of Russia’s armed forces have been exposed as neglected and inefficient since the invasion of Ukraine last year.
A training exercise recently took place involving an air-defence unit armed with Russian Tor M2K missile launchers, according to Belarus’s defence ministry.
Putin has blamed the Belarus deployment on the UK’s decision to send Ukraine armour-piercing shells containing depleted uranium. Putin toned down earlier false claims that the shells have nuclear components but he insisted they threaten the civilian population and will contaminate the environment.
“Nato allies act with full respect of their international commitments,” Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in response to the Belarus deployment.
Nato said Russia has consistently broken arms control commitments, including the suspension of the 2010 Start agreement, which limits US and Russian nuclear warheads and allows bilateral weapons inspections.
EU foreign policy commissioner Josep Borrell called on Belarus to refuse the weapons or risk facing further sanctions.
“Belarus can still stop it, it is their choice,” the Spaniard tweeted.
Big brother: Lukashenko with Putin. Picture credit: Kremlin