- Belarus justifies its decision to supply Russian nuclear weapons
- Says it needs to strengthen its own security
- It blames the West for years for targeting government change
- It says the move does not violate non-proliferation rules
LONDON, March 28 (Reuters) – Belarus confirmed on Tuesday it would host Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons, saying it was responding to years of Western pressure, sanctions and a military build-up by NATO member states. boundaries.
The Foreign Ministry’s statement was the first by the government since Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Moscow would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus and build a nuclear storage facility there.
Although Putin did not say when the deployment would take place, or provide further details, the announcement paved the way for Moscow’s first deployment of nuclear weapons outside its borders since the 1991 Soviet collapse.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said Russia’s nuclear weapons provided security after what it called a campaign of pressure by the United States and its allies aimed at toppling the government of President Alexander Lukashenko.
“Over the past two and a half years, the Republic of Belarus has been subject to unprecedented political, economic and informational pressure from the United States, the United Kingdom and its NATO allies, as well as member states of the European Union.” The ministry said in a statement.
It complained of “direct and brutal interference” in domestic affairs in the country, which has been ruled with an iron fist for nearly three decades by ex-Soviet collective farm boss Lukashenko.
“Given these situations and the legitimate concerns and risks in the field of national security arising from them, Belarus is obliged to respond by strengthening its own security and defense capabilities,” the ministry said.
The decision to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus was one of Moscow’s toughest nuclear signals to the West since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, which it called a “special military operation.”
Anti-nuclear campaigners have warned that the move, which Putin said would mirror the U.S. deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe without relinquishing nuclear weapons control, would limit the use of tactical short-range battlefield nuclear weapons and was unnecessary. A military perspective.
Minsk said Russian nuclear programs would not violate international non-proliferation treaties because Belarus would not have control over nuclear weapons.
“The training of Belarusian pilots who can fly aircraft with certain warships, the modernization of such aircraft and the deployment of nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory without Minsk providing control or access to related technologies do not in any way violate the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” it said.
‘State of the Union’
Lukashenko has repeatedly accused the West of trying to topple him after mass protests erupted against his rule in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, which the opposition says he won fraudulently. Lukashenko claimed a fair victory, waging a heavy crackdown on his opponents.
Minsk on February 24 last year allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine. Its own troops have not yet been involved in combat, while it is stepping up joint military exercises with Russian forces stationed in Belarus.
Lukashenko, who has long been involved in gradually building what he calls a “Union State” with Russia, is due to deliver a State of the Nation address on Friday.
Andrew Osborne reports; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel
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