Following President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that it will station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia’s intentions were strongly condemned on Sunday by the EU and NATO who called on Minsk to rethink the move, fearing of the conflict’s escalation.
After what was seen as Moscow’s warning to NATO over its military support for Ukraine and escalation of the standoff with the West, EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell stressed on Sunday that the bloc is ready to impose new sanctions on Belarus.
Minsk risks being accused of provoking an irresponsible escalation and posing a threat to European security and face another batch of restrictive measures should it agrees to host Russian nuclear weapons, Borrell warned.
Pointing out that there was “nothing unusual” in such a move, Putin announced that Russia would deploy tactical nuclear arms in Belarus in a similar step to those of the United States, which moves such weapons in NATO bases across Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey.
He also added that, by July, Moscow will have a storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons ready in Belarus.
After previously transferring to Belarus a number of Iskander tactical missile systems – capable of launching nuclear weapons – Moscow has also stationed there 10 aircraft capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons.
Belarus, which borders three NATO members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, also faced criticism from NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu on Sunday.
Underscoring that NATO is vigilant and is closely monitoring the situation, Lungescu called misleading Moscow’s reference to NATO’s nuclear sharing and criticized its dangerous and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric as well as Moscow’s recent suspension of its participation in the New START Treaty.
Lungescu, however, noted that there are still no changes in Russia’s nuclear posture that would lead the alliance to adjust its own, stressing that NATO allies act with full respect for their international commitments.
Meanwhile – in a tweet on Sunday – the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, accused Moscow of taking Belarus as a nuclear hostage, breaching its obligations, and of undermining the nuclear disarmament architecture and the international security system in general.
Danilov also demanded that UNSC immediately convenes an extraordinary meeting for this purpose.