Russian tactical nuclear weapons will be deployed close to Belarus’ borders with NATO neighbors, the Russian ambassador to Belarus said Sunday amid simmering tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine. Ambassador Boris Gryzlov’s comment followed Russian President Putin’s recent statement about plans to station tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Russia’s neighbor and ally.
Putin has said that construction of storage facilities for tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus will be complete by July 1 and added that Russia has helped modernize Belarusian warplanes to make them capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The two neighbors have an agreement envisioning close economic, political and military ties. Russia used Belarusian territory as a staging ground for invading Ukraine and has maintained a contingent of troops and weapons there.
Gryzlov, speaking in remarks broadcast late Sunday by Belarusian state television, said the Russian nuclear weapons will be “moved up close to the Western border of our union state” but did not give any precise location. “It will expand our defense capability, and it will be done regardless of all the noise in Europe and the United States,” he said in a reference to Western criticism of Putin’s decision.
Belarus shares a 1,250-kilometer (778-mile) border with NATO members Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
Tactical nuclear weapons, which are intended to destroy enemy troops and weapons on the battlefield, have a relatively short range and a much lower yield compared with nuclear warheads fitted to long-range strategic missiles that are capable of obliterating whole cities.
The deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus would put them closer to potential targets in Ukraine and NATO members in Eastern and Central Europe.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said Friday that some of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed to Belarus along with part of Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal.
China warns of World War III with ‘nuclear sword hanging over our heads’ over Putin’s plan to send nukes to Belarus
Geng Shuang, China’s representative in the United Nations, called for all world powers to step back from the brink and maintain “global strategic stability”.
He urged nations to prevent nuclear proliferation and crisis, avoid armed attacks against nuclear power plants and the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Speaking at a Security Council meeting on international peace, Shuang made clear China’s opposition to Kremlin’s plan to send nuclear weapons to Minsk.
He described nuclear weapons as “the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads” and called on all nuclear weapon states to reduce the risk of a nuclear war and avoid any armed conflict between nuclear weapons states.
“We call for the abolition of the nuclear-sharing arrangements and advocate no deployment of nuclear weapons abroad by all nuclear weapons states, and the withdrawal of nuclear weapons deployed abroad,” Shuang said.
Shuang stressed that “nuclear proliferation must be prevented and nuclear crisis avoided.” He added that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought,” and that China’s position on nuclear weapons has been “clear and consistent”.
China has firmly committed to a defensive nuclear strategy, not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones, and to no first use of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances.
While not directly mentioning Russia, Geng called for all parties to “stay rational, avoid aggravating tensions, and intensifying frictions, or fanning the flames”.
China has claimed to maintain a neutral stance in the war but has also pointed out its “no-limits friendship with Russia”.
Last month, China released a point peace plan to end the war, calling for a ceasefire and talks between Ukraine and Russia.
He also criticised Russia for violating a pledge made to China’s President Xi Jinping in a joint statement at their recent meeting in Moscow, declaring that all nuclear states should refrain from deploying nuclear weapons outside their countries and withdraw those deployed abroad.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which Ukraine branded a “desperate Kremlin attempt to avoid military defeat and threaten the world with nuclear apocalypse.”
Belarus UN Ambassador Valentin Rybakov said the plan was a “reaction to the challenges and risks to national security” his country faces.
It comes a day after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that Putin might also deploy strategic nuclear weapons in Belarus if he feels threatened.
In a speech, Lukashenko said that the nuclear arms on its territory would help protect Belarus, which he said was under threat from the West.
He added that “it is impossible to defeat a nuclear power. If the Russian leadership understands that the situation threatens to cause Russia’s disintegration, it will use the most terrible weapon. This cannot be allowed.”
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