russian Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that he plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus in response to Britain’s decision to provide Ukraine with depleted uranium armor-piercing rounds. Putin said the move was intended to follow the lead of the United States, which has nuclear weapons based in certain allied countries. He plans to maintain control over the nuclear weapons sent to Belarus.

Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield and have a short range and a low yield compared with much more powerful nuclear warheads fitted to long-range missiles. The deployment of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus would up the ante in the Ukrainian conflict by placing them closer to the Russian aircraft and missiles already stationed there. Putin argued that Russia was doing what the US has been doing for decades.

Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine had Soviet nuclear weapons stationed on their territory but handed them over to Russia after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has long asked to have nuclear weapons in his country again as a counter to NATO, as Belarus shares borders with three NATO members – Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. Putin said that Russia helped modernize Belarusian military aircraft last year to make them capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is living in exile, said the agreement to transfer the tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus “underlines the threat to regional security” from Lukashenko’s regime. Putin had initially objected to the depleted uranium rounds that Britain promised to ship to Ukraine by making the false claim that they have nuclear components.

He subsequently toned down his language but insisted Saturday that the ammunition posed an additional danger to both troops and civilians in Ukraine by leaving a radioactive trace and contaminating agricultural land.

The move has raised concerns over the escalation of tension in the region, particularly as Russia and Ukraine have been involved in a long-standing conflict. The announcement also comes at a time when tensions between Russia and the West are high, with NATO and Russia engaged in a military build-up along their borders.

The US government believes Russia has about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, and the move to station some in Belarus is likely to increase concerns about Russia’s intentions in the region. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called on Russia to be transparent about its military activities and expressed concerns over the increase in military activity in the region.

In response to Putin’s announcement, the Belarusian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that it was ready to receive the nuclear weapons and that they would be deployed in a way that ensures the safety and security of Belarusian citizens. The ministry also said that the move was necessary to counter the threat from NATO.

The announcement by Putin is likely to escalate tensions in the region and could lead to a further deterioration of relations between Russia and the West. The move also raises questions about the safety and security of nuclear weapons in Belarus and the potential risk they pose to the region.