Russian President Vladimir Putin has made known that Russia will now install tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which is the first time since the mid-1990s that the Eastern European power has installed such arms outside the country’s borders.
Putin’s announcement comes as tensions continue to tighten amid the war in Ukraine, which has seen Western powers supporting the small country with tanks, ammunition, and fighter jets in its effort to push back against Russia.
Reuters reported that Putin shared with state television that he and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had considered the issue of installing tactical nuclear weapons in the country. However, Putin’s military gesture has raised concerns, as Belarus borders Poland, a member of NATO.
Putin said: "There is nothing unusual here either: firstly, the United States has been doing this for decades. They have long deployed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allied countries.”
"We agreed that we will do the same - without violating our obligations, I emphasize, without violating our international obligations on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons."
It has not been confirmed when these weapons would be moved to Belarus. It is important to note that these tactical nuclear weapons are “used for specific gains in the battlefield,” according to the report.
The report noted that Russia is set to have a storage facility that houses these tactical nuclear weapons ready in Belarus by July 1. However, Russia has made known that they will not be handing over control of the arms to Minsk.
Even more alarming is that Russia has already put 10 aircraft in Belarus that have the ability of carrying tactical nuclear weapons, according to Putin. Additionally, Moscow has already moved Iskander tactical nuclear weapons systems to Belarus, which allows for nuclear weapons to be launched.
Reuters reported that when the Soviet Union folded in 1991, nuclear weapons were stationed in Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Russia. However, in 1992, the four countries agreed that the nuclear weapons should all be kept in Russia, which came to fruition in 1996.
The US government has yet to comment on this new development.