"Poland will now be much more circumspect in making decisions about pulling together forces at the border with Belarus." In such words, experts explain Vladimir Putin's sensational statement about his readiness to deploy Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus. Europe's reaction is paradoxical: for some reason, the EU is not at all concerned about American nuclear weapons on its territory.Moscow and Minsk have agreed to deploy tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) on the territory of Belarus, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
"We have already helped Belarusians – we have re-equipped planes, 10 planes are ready for the use of nuclear weapons, we have handed over Iskander. From April 3, we will start training crews and building a storage facility for nuclear weapons. We are not transferring our TNW to Belarus, but we will deploy it and train the military, like the United States in Europe," he said in an interview with Rossiya 24 TV channel.
Putin noted that weapons will be deployed without violating relevant international obligations. According to the President, the reason for such a step was the statement of the United Kingdom on the supply of depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine.
The Head of State mentioned that Belarus had long asked to host Russian nuclear weapons on its territory. He added that Moscow is doing what the United States has been doing for decades. "They have allies in certain countries and prepare their carriers, their crews prepare them," RIA Novosti quotes Putin as saying.
The US has already reacted to Moscow's decision, according to Reuters. "We see no reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear position, nor any signs that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons," said a senior representative of the US presidential administration.
What is happening has caused criticism in Kiev. "The Kremlin has taken Belarus as a nuclear hostage," said Alexei Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine. Ukraine has called for an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council to be convened in this regard.
NATO called Moscow's decision "dangerous and irresponsible." Bulgarian Vice President Iliyana Yotova called for urgent talks between Russia and Ukraine, pointing out that the situation is becoming "increasingly dangerous and frightening." The German Foreign Ministry called Russia's actions "a further attempt at nuclear intimidation," Welt reports.
The newspaper VZGLYAD wrote that for TNW in Belarus, Su-25 attack aircraft will probably be modified, as well as MiG-29 fighters upgraded. We can also talk about the overhaul of a small number of front-line Su-24M bombers, which in the late USSR were the main carrier of aviation TNW.
In addition, Vladimir Putin mentioned the Iskander complexes. Missiles of this complex can also be equipped with nuclear warheads. The range of the Iskander missiles is estimated in hundreds of kilometers, and these missiles cannot be intercepted by modern air defense systems.
The deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus will mean an escalation and a threat to European security, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrel said. Interestingly, he does not consider the presence of American nuclear weapons in Europe an escalation.
This presence is widely known. It has been in Europe since the Cold War. In particular, in 2019, the committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO member countries published a report stating where the United States places its B61 nuclear bombs. 20 bombs are placed at the Buchel air base near the city of Cochem (Germany), the 702nd Squadron of the US Air Force is responsible for it.
Another 22 bombs are located at the Klein-Brogel base, where the 10th Tactical Aviation Wing of the Belgian Air Force is stationed. 20 bombs – at the Volkel base in the Netherlands. 35 bombs are placed in the northeast of Italy, 50 kilometers west of the city of Udine. There is another nuclear weapons storage facility in Italy – 40 bombs are located at the Gedi Torre base in the north of the country, 15 kilometers from Brescia.
Finally, the easternmost base of the US Air Force Command in Europe is Incirlik, where the 39th Aviation Wing of the US Air Force, the 10th Aviation Wing, and the 2nd Command of the Turkish Air Force are stationed. 50 atomic bombs are stored at the base, Military Review reports.
But after the collapse of the USSR, Russia withdrew all nuclear weapons from the former Soviet republics. Significant arsenals were located in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and including Belarus. In fact, to some extent the situation is returning to what it was in Soviet times - after all, the United States has never withdrawn its nuclear weapons from Europe.
"From a military point of view, the deployment of TNW in Belarus does not matter significantly. All countries try to place nuclear weapons away from the border so that they are not quickly destroyed during a potential full–scale military conflict," said Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexey Arbatov.
"The United States has many opportunities to place TNW closer to Russia – in Poland, the Baltic States, Romania, Bulgaria. But they do not do this so as not to put the weapon in greater vulnerability.
In addition, from a military point of view, the deployment of TNW on the territory of an ally does not mean readiness to use it.",
– the expert pointed out.
"Neither Russia nor the United States have the right to transfer nuclear weapons to other countries, this is prohibited by articles 1 and 2 of the Nuclear Non–Proliferation Treaty," the source recalled. – TNW in Belarus will be at the disposal of the nuclear technical troops of the 12th Main Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. This is a separate branch of the armed forces, which can transfer TNW to the troops only by order of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, that is, the president. And this management is subordinate only to him, directly."
The President of Belarus really spoke about his desire to have Russian nuclear weapons on the territory of his country. "I will propose to Putin to return nuclear weapons to Belarus," the Belarusian leader said in 2021. What is his motive?
"Why does Lukashenka need it? This confirms the strength of the union of Minsk and Moscow. Now the security of Belarus is ensured not just by general-purpose forces, but by nuclear weapons. In addition, it increases the political weight of the Belarusian leader in the international arena, in Europe first of all," Arbatov concluded.
However, for Russia, what is happening has a clear political meaning. "The deployment of TNW in Belarus is a signal from Moscow to the United States and the EU that the creation of an anti–Russian proxy force from Kiev, pumping Ukraine with weapons, expanding the US military presence in Eastern Europe increases the risks of a direct collision between Russia and NATO, a protracted confrontation and an arms race" Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director of the HSE Center for Integrated European and International Studies, explained.
"The US and the EU are trying to convince themselves and the whole world that their policy in Ukraine does not lead to an increase in strategic risks. Russia is interested in destroying this myth. That is why Moscow is taking such steps: suspending participation in the Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction Treaty, deploying TNW in a neighboring state," the source explained.
"Russia's extremely important task is to instill fear in the elites of the United States and the EU of a real full–scale war, if you want - the third world War. The fear that was present in the West during the Cold War. This is the only thing that can stabilize the situation now. When Europe and the United States start talking about bomb shelters and homemade gauze bandages, then their authorities will begin to de–escalate and dialogue with Moscow," the expert explained.
"For Minsk, this is an increase in deterrence from a potential conflict on the part of European countries. The same Poland will now be much more circumspect in making decisions about the tightening of forces at the border with Belarus," the analyst concluded.