Russia to deploy nuclear weapons to Belarus
Levelling up the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced his plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, a close ally and neighbour of Russia. Putin has repeatedly hinted at a return to Cold War brinksmanship, threatening the possible use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
During an interview on Russian television, Putin stated that if Kyiv received depleted uranium ammunition from the West, he would respond with similar ammunition. This statement came after a suggestion from the British government that it could supply Ukraine with the munitions. Putin sneered that Russia had vast quantities of weaponry.
“Russia of course has what it needs to answer. Without exaggeration, we have hundreds of thousands of such shells. We have not used them yet.”
In response to these threats, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) lamented the uncertainty created by these vague threats of nukes. ICAN warned last month as the invasion hit its first anniversary that, as the conflict drags on, the likelihood of a nuclear strike only grows.
NATO condemned the action as Putin pulled out of New START, the last remaining arms control treaty between Russia and the United States, the two biggest nuclear powers. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called it the end of Europe’s post-Cold War arms control architecture.
The use of nuclear weapons has been a concern for the US, with officials fearing Russia might consider it if backed into a losing corner on the battlefield.
Some think Russia will start false narratives to justify a nuclear strike. They have already been circulating stories that Ukraine vehemently denies the use of dirty bombs. The US made rare direct contact with Moscow to warn them against using nukes, especially after fabricating justifications.
President Joe Biden recently reiterated the US stance that nuclear weapons should only be used in “extreme circumstances.” But neither the US nor Russia has any official policy against the first use of nukes.
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko agreed to allow Russia to deploy the weapons, according to Putin. The Russian leader defended his actions by saying deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus is the same as what the US always does.
“There is nothing unusual here either: the United States has been doing this for decades. They have long placed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allies.”
The threat of nuclear escalation comes just one week after a global warrant was issued for Putin’s arrest, accusing him of war crimes. The International Criminal Court (ICC) accused Putin of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine as part of his invasion. Now, if Putin crosses into any territory belonging to the court’s 123 member states they are required to arrest him and transfer him to The Hague to face trial.
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