Belarus says it is forced to host Russian nukes ‘due to Western pressure’ after the country was warned it has become Putin’s ‘nuclear hostage’
- It comes after the Russian president announced plans to station nukes in Belarus
- The decision alarmed Western countries and drew condemnation from officials
Belarus said on Tuesday it was forced to host Russian nuclear weapons due to ‘unprecedented’ Western pressure, insisting their deployment did not violate international agreements.
At the weekend Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in the Moscow-allied country, drawing condemnation from the West.
‘Belarus is forced to respond to strengthen its own security and defense capability,’ the foreign ministry in Minsk said.
It said Minsk had been subjected to ‘unprecedented’ political and economic pressure from the United States and its allies.
Belarus said it would not have control over the weapons and their deployment ‘in no way contradicts’ the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko (L) at the Palace of Independence in Minsk last year, where Putin ‘discussed military and economic cooperation’
Minsk allowed Russia to use its territory as a launchpad for Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine last year.
The two countries have since held military exercises on Belarusian territory and increased cooperation between their armies.
‘Military cooperation between Belarus and Russia is carried out in strict accordance with international law,’ the foreign ministry said.
Putin’s plans to place nuclear weapons on the European Union’s doorstep have triggered calls for new sanctions against Moscow.
With fears of a nuclear war rising since Putin sent troops into Ukraine, experts believe that any Russian strike would probably involve ‘tactical’ small-sized battlefield weapons as opposed to ‘strategic’ high-powered long-range nuclear weapons.
Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994. The West has hit Minsk with multiple rounds of sanctions over its crackdown on political dissent and its role as a springboard for Moscow’s assault on Ukraine.
Putin’s decision to station nukes in Minsk follows from the UK’s recently announced commitment to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing tank rounds containing depleted Uranium.
Annabel Goldie, Minister of State for Defense of the United Kingdom said on March 20 on the UK Parliament website: ‘Alongside our granting of a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, we will be providing ammunition, including armor-piercing rounds which contain depleted uranium. Such rounds are highly effective in defeating modern tanks and armored vehicles.’
Belarusian army Su-25 jet fighters fly during a parade marking Independence Day in Minsk, Belarus, Wednesday, July 3, 2019
It marks the first time since the mid-1990s that Moscow will have based nuclear arms outside of the country.
The Russian president was adamant that it wouldn’t violate global efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, as the US has done the same for years.
He added that Moscow would not actually be transferring control of the arms to Minsk.
Russia has stationed 10 aircraft in Belarus, which are capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons, he claimed.
Moscow has already transferred a number of Iskander-K tactical missile systems to the country, according to Putin.
The missiles could potentially be used to launch nuclear weapons by Russia.
In 1992, four former Soviet states (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine) all agreed that the nuclear weapons of each country would be held by Russia alone, with the transfer of warheads being completed by 1996.
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