Ukraine war: US reacts with hesitation as Russia agrees to deal to transfer nuclear weapons to Belarus | world news
Vladimir Putin says the weapons to be stationed in Belarus – which does not have nuclear weapons – would remain under Russian control and therefore do not violate international treaties.
Sunday, March 26, 2023 09:06, UK
The United States has reacted cautiously to Russia’s decision to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus.
On Saturday, a Russian news agency reported that Vladimir Putin signed a contract to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Ten planes have reportedly already been deployed there, capable of transporting the weapons, which are designed for use on the battlefield rather than wiping out cities.
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It is the first time Russia has stationed such weapons outside the country since the mid-1990s.
But a senior US government official told Reuters there was no sign Moscow intends to use the weapons.
“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear stance, nor any indication that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.
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“We remain committed to the collective defense of the NATO alliance.”
A senior security adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that the move would destabilize Belarus.
“The Kremlin has taken Belarus as a nuclear hostage,” wrote Oleksiy Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, on Twitter.
“No Violation” of the Nuclear Treaty
According to the Russian news agency Tass, Putin claimed the decision would not violate nuclear non-proliferation agreements since the US already has such weapons stationed in Europe.
This is a reference to an international treaty aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons – keeping them out of the hands of countries that don’t already have them.
But Mr Putin has said that the weapons to be stationed in Belarus – which has no nuclear weapons – would remain under Russian control.
“Again, there is nothing unusual: First, the United States has been doing this for decades. They have long stationed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allied countries,” Putin told state television.
“We agreed to do the same – without violating our commitments, I stress, without violating our international non-proliferation commitments.”
The US has an estimated 100 nuclear warheads at air bases on the continent, including in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
Image: Vladimir Putin, right, talks to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in December
Russia’s dependence on Belarus
Tensions have risen over the war in Ukraine after Kiev received large shipments of Western arms and Moscow shifted its rhetoric about its military operation from “demilitarizing” its neighbor to fighting the “collective West” there.
This latest deal is another sign of the Kremlin’s trust in Belarus as an ally during the war in Ukraine.
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Mr Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko have both visited each other in their respective capitals.
Belarus has also helped train Russian troops, treat the injured and provide relief supplies. The regime has also allowed Russia to use its territory for land and air strikes.