Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed that Moscow has moved nuclear warheads to Belarus amid international condemnation of nuclear usage in the ongoing war against Ukraine.
“As you know we were negotiating with our ally, Belarusian President [Alexander] Lukashenko, that we would move a part of these tactical nuclear weapons to the territory of Belarus—this has happened,” Putin said on Friday while speaking at a Russian economic forum in St. Petersburg. “The first nuclear warheads were delivered to the territory of Belarus. But only the first ones, the first part. But we will do this job completely by the end of the summer or by the end of the year.”
The Russian president insisted the deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus will act as “an element of deterrence” to all powers who are “thinking about inflicting a strategic defeat on us.”
“Nuclear weapons have been made to ensure our security in the broadest sense of the word and the existence of the Russian state, but we … have no such need [to use them],” Putin added.
It is Russia’s first deployment of such shorter-range nuclear weapons outside of the country since the fall of the Soviet Union. These warheads could potentially be outside of the battlefield as well.
In recent weeks, the Russian president has increasingly raised the possibility of using nuclear weapons as the war in Ukraine prolongs.
Last autumn, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom had warned Russia that if it used nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the trio would retaliate with a conventional strike. Beijing has also said that the use of nuclear weapons in the war will not be accepted.
According to data from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Russia accounts for the largest number of nuclear warheads in the world. Out of the 12,700 warheads worldwide, Russia has 5,977, followed closely by the United States with 5,428 weapons.
Nuclear Warheads in Belarus
The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus was indicated by Putin back in March when he justified the move by pointing to the U.S. deployment of such weapons in European nations.
At the time, the United States had criticized Moscow’s move but said that it won’t be changing its stance on strategic nuclear weapons as there were no signs that Russia intended to use them.
Earlier this month, Putin revealed that the nuclear weapons would be deployed at special storage facilities in Belarus once they are ready by July 7-8. The control of such weapons will remain with Russia, he added.
The Belarusian president has said that the deployment of nuclear weapons in his country will boost its security.
“[The deployment] was my demand. It wasn’t Russia who imposed it on me. Why? Because no one in the world has ever gone to war with a nuclear power. And I don’t want anyone to go to war with us. Is there such a threat? There is. I must neutralize that threat,” Lukashenko said, according to Belarus’ news agency BelTA.
Nuclear Treaty Limbo
Russia’s deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus comes as the United States has halted exchanging key information about its nuclear arsenal with Moscow after the Kremlin suspended its participation in the New START treaty in February.
The New START nuclear arms pact between the United States and Russia limits the number of nuclear weapons each nation can have. It also authorizes inspections of stockpiles and facilities as a safety measure.
“As of today, Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty,” Putin said in a national address on Feb. 23. “We’re not withdrawing from the agreement … We’re just suspending [our participation in] it.”
In his address, Putin justified the suspension stating that Russia cannot allow a U.S. inspection of its nuclear sites at a time when Washington and its NATO allies were seeking to defeat Moscow in the Ukraine war.
During a June 2 meeting of the Arms Control Association, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the Biden administration is seeking to move ahead with nuclear negotiations with Russia and China “without preconditions.”
From The Epoch Times