Vladimir Putin’s ready to deploy nuclear weapons on Belarusian appears to be another attempt to up the ante in the Ukraine conflict – and follows the Russian leader’s warnings that Moscow is ready to use “all available means” to repel attacks on Russia’s territory and its nuclear arsenal. The Republic of Belarus has faced unprecedented political, economic, and informational pressure from the United States, Great Britain, its NATO allies, and European Union member states,” said the Belarusian Foreign Minister.
How did Putin explain this move?
Russia has already helped upgrade Belarusian warplanes to deliver nuclear weapons, a fact Belarus’ authoritarian leader repeatedly mentioned. In a speech broadcast on Saturday, Putin said the immediate impetus for Russia’s deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus was the British government’s decision to supply Ukraine with armor-piercing missiles containing depleted uranium. Putin softened his speech after falsely claiming those missiles had nuclear components but insisted they could pose additional risks to civilians and pollute the environment.
What is the function of a tactical nuclear weapon?
Tactical Nukes are designed to destroy enemy troops and weapons on the battlefield. They have a relatively short range and much lower effectiveness than nuclear warheads mounted on long-range strategic missiles capable of destroying entire cities. The US government estimates Russia possesses about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, including aerial bombs, short-range missile warheads, and artillery shells. While strategic nuclear weapons are mounted in land-based or submarine-launched ICBMs that are constantly ready for launch, tactical nuclear weapons are stored in some heavily guarded warehouses in Russia and take time to be delivered to combat units. What exactly will Russia do? Putin said Russia has already helped 10 Belarusian aircraft to be upgraded to carry nuclear weapons, and their crews would be deployed from the 3rd. He noted that Russia has also supplied Belarus with Iskander short-range missile systems, which will be fitted with conventional or nuclear warheads can. Said that Belarus’s nuclear weapons storage facilities will be completed by July 1. He did not say how many nuclear weapons will be deployed there or when they will be deployed. Putin stressed that Russia would retain control of all nuclear weapons stationed in Belarus, just as the United States controls its tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of its NATO allies. If Moscow sends nuclear weapons to Belarus, it will be the first deployment outside Russia since the early 1990s: Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan inherited huge nuclear arsenals after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 but agreed to send them to Russia years later.
What are the consequences?
With his latest statement, Putin again brandishes the nuclear threat to signal Moscow’s willingness to escalate the war in Ukraine. Deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which shares a 1,084-kilometer border with Ukraine, would make it easier and faster for Russian planes and missiles to reach potential targets there if Moscow decides to use them. It would also increase Russia’s ability to attack several NATO members in Central and Eastern Europe.