Putin says Russia will place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus as Ukraine eyes offensive

President Vladimir Putin mentioned Russia is getting ready to station tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, escalating a confrontation with the US and its allies over the conflict in Ukraine.

Moscow isn’t handing management of the weapons to Belarus, and gained’t be in breach of its non-proliferation obligations underneath an settlement with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Putin mentioned in feedback broadcast on state tv Saturday.

The US has “lengthy deployed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allied international locations,” he mentioned.

Ten plane able to carrying nuclear warheads have already been ready in Belarus, and storage services for the weapons will likely be accomplished by July 1, Putin mentioned, with out indicating when Russia would ship the arms to its ally’s territory.

US officers are conscious of the reported Russian announcement and can monitor the implications, mentioned Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the Nationwide Safety Council on the White Home.

“We’ve not seen any motive to regulate our personal strategic nuclear posture nor any indications Russia is getting ready to make use of a nuclear weapon,” Watson mentioned by e mail. “We stay dedicated to the collective protection of the NATO alliance.”

Iskander short-range missiles — able to carrying nuclear warheads — had additionally been despatched to Belarus, and coaching for crews would start there on April 3, Putin mentioned. 

The choice comes because the Kremlin braces for an anticipated Ukrainian army offensive, after Russian forces didn’t make a breakthrough in months of preventing in jap Ukraine. Russia has dialed again its personal plans for an additional advance and is in search of to enroll as many as 400,000 contract troopers to rebuild its ranks because it digs in for a protracted marketing campaign.

Russia has repeatedly resorted to nuclear saber-rattling because the more-than-yearlong invasion of Ukraine more and more faltered, prompting condemnation from the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Group. 

Chinese language chief Xi Jinping additionally signaled to Putin final yr that nuclear threats are a pink line for him, at the same time as Beijing has provided public backing for Russia’s safety issues within the battle.

Putin final month introduced Russia was suspending participation within the New START nuclear arms treaty with the US, the final accord limiting their strategic stockpiles. US President Joe Biden referred to as {that a} “huge mistake.”

The Kremlin hasn’t publicly declared that any of Russia’s nuclear arsenal is predicated in different international locations for the reason that Soviet Union’s collapse, when Ukraine and Kazakhstan surrendered stockpiles of weapons on their territories. In the course of the Chilly Warfare, NATO and the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact group stationed nuclear weapons in Europe.

Putin mentioned the settlement to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus adopted a UK junior protection minister’s disclosure that Britain would ship shells made with depleted uranium to Ukraine. Nonetheless, he mentioned, Lukashenko had lengthy urged him to station Russian nuclear weapons in his nation.

“All our agreements will happen within the very close to future,” Putin mentioned.

Depleted-uranium munitions don’t trigger a nuclear explosion however use the steel’s excessive density to penetrate armor. Putin this week threatened to reply if the UK went forward with deliveries.

The US and different NATO states are delivering massive volumes of weapons to Ukraine that pose “a risk” to Russia, Putin mentioned. Russia has “lots of of hundreds” of shells that embrace depleted uranium although it hasn’t used them but, he mentioned.

Whereas Ukraine’s allies are ramping up manufacturing of arms and munitions, Russia’s protection output is creating very quick and “will produce thrice extra ammunition” and tanks than Ukraine’s backers will provide, Putin mentioned.

—With help from Justin Sink