Russia signs deal to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus | War news Russia-Ukraine

Moscow says it retains control of the weapons, but Ukraine accuses Russia of holding Minsk hostage.

Moscow and Minsk have signed an agreement to formalize the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear missiles on Belarusian territory.

Russia said on Thursday the move was prompted by rising tensions with the West.

“In the context of an extremely sharp escalation of threats on the western borders of Russia and Belarus, it was decided to take countermeasures in the military-nuclear field,” Russia’s state news agency TASS was quoted as saying by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. .

The deployment of the missiles was first announced in March by President Vladimir Putin.

Since last year’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin has repeatedly said Russia would be willing to use nuclear weapons if necessary to defend its “territorial integrity”.

At the time, NATO said it saw no need to adjust its own nuclear stance, though the military alliance labeled Putin’s nuclear rhetoric “dangerous and irresponsible”.

But Richard Weitz, a foreign policy and defense analyst based in Washington, D.C., told Al Jazeera that Russia was unlikely to benefit “in a purely military sense.”
“Russia already has thousands of nuclear weapons and some are already deployed on the ground or in aircraft, close to where the Belarusian facilities are likely to be located. So it adds a few more locations to what Russia already has,” he said.

“It is a political signal… The Russian government at the highest level will issue statements warning of the risk of nuclear war if NATO gives patriots to Ukraine, or F-16s to Ukraine.

“It’s a way of reminding the West that Russia is this great nuclear power and the West had better be careful or we could end up in a nuclear war.

“(It) also helps them strengthen ties or control over Belarus in the sense that the guns are there. That is another reason why the security of Belarus is tied to Russia, but I think the main reason is part of this campaign of intimidation.”

Ukraine has said Russia’s ally Belarus has been “held hostage” by Moscow.

In March, Oleksiy Danilov, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, called the deal “a step towards internal destabilization” of Belarus, saying it had increased what he called the level of “negative perception and public rejection”. of Russia and Putin maximized in Belarusian society. “The Kremlin took Belarus as a nuclear hostage,” he wrote on Twitter.

Moscow will retain control of the weapons and all decisions regarding their use, Shoigu said.

TASS quoted him as saying that Iskander-M missiles, capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads, had been transferred to the Belarusian armed forces, and that some Su-25 aircraft had been converted for the possible use of nuclear weapons.

“Belarusian military personnel have received the necessary training in Russian training centers,” said Shoigu.

He added that the agreements signed with his Belarusian counterpart concern the procedure for setting up a “special nuclear weapons storage facility on Belarusian territory”.

Tactical nuclear weapons refer to lower-yield weapons designed for battlefield use, as opposed to strategic weapons capable of wiping out entire cities. Russia has not disclosed how many tactical nuclear weapons it has.

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