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Russia moves forward with plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Reuters file

Russia on Thursday launched a plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, the leader of which said the warheads were already on the way, in the Kremlin’s first deployment of such bombs outside Russia since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The US State Department condemned the deployment plan but said Washington had no intention of changing its stance on strategic nuclear weapons and had seen no indication that Russia was ready to use a nuclear bomb.

After sending troops to Ukraine 15 months ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin says the United States and its allies are waging a growing proxy war against Russia.

The nuclear deployment plan was announced by Putin in an interview on state television on March 25.

“The collective West is essentially waging an undeclared war against our countries,” Putin’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart in Minsk, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The West, Shoigu said, was doing all it could “to prolong and intensify the armed conflict in Ukraine”.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said the tactical nuclear weapons were already on the move in accordance with an order signed by Putin, although there was no confirmation of this from the Kremlin itself.

“The nuclear weapons movement has already begun,” Lukashenko told reporters in Moscow, where he was attending talks with other leaders of former Soviet states.

When asked if the weapons were already in Belarus, he replied: “Maybe. When I come back I will check.

Nuclear weapons storage

Shoigu said the documents he was signing in Minsk related to the process of stockpiling tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller described the plans as “the latest example of irresponsible behavior we’ve seen from Russia since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine there over a year old.”

Miller repeated Washington’s warning that the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in the conflict would have “serious consequences,” without specifying those consequences.

“I will simply add that we have seen no reason to adjust our strategic nuclear posture or any indication that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” Miller told reporters.

Putin has repeatedly warned that Russia, which has more nuclear weapons than any other country, will use any means to defend itself, and he has framed the war in Ukraine as a battle for Russia’s survival against a aggressive West.

The United States and its allies say they want Ukraine to defeat Russian forces on the battlefield, but deny they want to destroy Russia – and deny that the war in Ukraine is in any way linked to post enlargement. -Soviet NATO.

Belarus has borders with three NATO members – Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Russia will retain arms control.

Russia’s tactical superiority in nuclear weapons

Tactical nuclear weapons are used for tactical gains on the battlefield and generally have a lower yield than strategic nuclear weapons designed to destroy American or Russian cities.

Russia has a huge numerical superiority over the United States and the NATO military alliance in tactical nuclear weapons: the United States estimates that Russia has about 2,000 functional tactical warheads.

The United States possesses about 200 tactical nuclear weapons, half of which are at bases in Europe.

Shoigu said Iskander-M missiles, which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads, have been handed over to the Belarusian armed forces and some Su-25 aircraft have been converted for possible use of nuclear weapons.

“The Belarusian military has received the necessary training,” said Shoigu, quoted by his ministry.

The United States has said the world faces the gravest nuclear danger since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 due to Putin’s remarks during the conflict in Ukraine, but Moscow says its position has been misinterpreted.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signed by the Soviet Union, stipulates that no nuclear power can transfer nuclear weapons or technology to a non-nuclear power, but it allows the deployment of weapons outside its borders but under its control.

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