Responsible Statecraft, the US think tank, believes it serves as a political gain for Moscow to influence European public opinion, considering its proximity to Ukraine and the unavoidable human, environmental, and economic costs.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko reiterated that he wouldn’t think twice about using these weapons if his country was attacked.
The fact that Belarus confirmed the presence of Russian nuclear weapons on its land has headlines in the West on code red.
“I think it is unlikely that anyone would want to fight a country that has such weapons. These are weapons of deterrence. … God forbid I have to decide on the use of these weapons in modern times. But there will be no hesitation, as long as there is aggression against us,” Lukashenko said, according to the Belarusian state news agency Belta.
Back in March, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Minsk would not be given control of any nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Why are they there?
In light of the war in Ukraine, Responsible Statecraft believes it serves a political gain for Moscow to influence European public opinion, considering its proximity to Ukraine and the unavoidable human, environmental, and economic costs. It adds that stationing the weapons in Belarus is a reconstitution of “Greater Russia” for Putin.
Belarus, like Ukraine and Kazakhstan, gave up all the legacy nuclear weapons on its territory after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the presence of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus does not appear to breach the 1992 Lisbon Protocol of the START Treaty.
Putin announced in late March that Russian tactical nuclear weapons would be placed in Belarus, with the storage sites for weapons expected to be finished by July 1.
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia had clarified late in March that Russia was not violating its non-proliferation commitments by deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
At the time, Washington denounced the plan with the EU threatening Belarus with sanctions, although the Pentagon and NATO noted that there are no indications that Russia is preparing to use any nuclear weapons.
It is worth recalling that on August 8, Moscow informed Washington that it was temporarily halting inspections at its facilities covered by the New START Treaty.
The Russian Foreign Ministry explained that Russia was forced to resort to such actions “due to Washington’s persistence in implicitly restarting inspections on conditions that do not take into account the existing realities, create unilateral advantages for the United States and actually strip Russia of the right to carry out inspections on US soil.”
US President Joe Biden had said that his administration is ready to negotiate a new arms control framework to replace the New START treaty with Russia upon its expiry in 2026.
Russia and the United States announced in February 2021 the entry into force of the decision to extend the START 3 Treaty on the Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms for a period of five years.
The Treaty kept the two countries’ nuclear arsenals at a much lower level than during the Cold War, as it set the number of installed strategic nuclear launchers at 700 and the number of nuclear warheads at 1,550.