- Belarus justifies its decision to host Russian nuclear weapons
- She says she needs to beef up her security
- He blames the West for years of pressure to change the government
- He says the move would not violate non-proliferation rules
LONDON (Reuters) – Belarus confirmed on Tuesday that it will host Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons, saying the decision was a response to years of Western pressure, including sanctions and what it said was a military buildup by NATO members near its location. the border.
The statement from the Foreign Ministry is the government’s first since Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Moscow will deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus and build a nuclear weapons storage facility there.
Although Putin did not say when the troops would be deployed, nor provide further details, the announcement appears to set the stage for Moscow’s first deployment of nuclear weapons outside its borders since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said that Russian nuclear bombs provide protection after what it described as a campaign of pressure from the United States and its allies aimed at overthrowing the government of President Alexander Lukashenko.
“Over the past two and a half years, the Republic of Belarus has been subjected to unprecedented political, economic and media pressure from the United States, the United Kingdom and their NATO allies, as well as the member states of the European Union,” the ministry said in a statement.
It complained of “direct and brutal interference” in domestic affairs, in a country ruled with iron by former Soviet collective farm chief Lukashenko for nearly three decades.
“In light of these circumstances and the legitimate concerns and risks in the field of national security arising from them, Belarus is forced to respond by strengthening its security and defense capabilities,” the ministry said.
The decision to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus was one of Moscow’s strongest nuclear signals to the West since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year in what it calls a “special military operation”.
Anti-nuclear activists have warned that the move, which Putin said would reverse the way the United States deploys nuclear warheads in Europe without relinquishing control over them, would lower the threshold for the use of short-range tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield that are unnecessary from a military point of view. .
Minsk said Russia’s nuclear plans would not contradict international non-proliferation agreements because Belarus itself would not control nuclear weapons.
“Training Belarusian pilots capable of flying aircraft with specific warheads, modernizing these aircraft, and deploying nuclear warheads on the territory of Belarus without giving Minsk control over them or access to related technologies is in no way inconsistent with the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
Lukashenko has repeatedly accused the West of trying to overthrow him after mass protests against his rule erupted in 2020 following a presidential election that the opposition said he won fraudulently. Lukashenko said he won fairly, while waging a sweeping crackdown on his opponents.
Minsk allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine on February 24 last year. However, its forces have not yet fought in the war, while it has intensified joint military exercises with the Russian forces deployed in Belarus.
Lukashenko, who has long been in the process of gradually building what he calls a “union state” with Russia, is scheduled to deliver a state of the nation address on Friday.
Reporting by Andrew Osborne. Edited by Frank Jack Daniel
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