In a move that underscores escalating tensions with the West, Russia and Belarus have signed a deal formalizing the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear missiles on Belarusian territory. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that the decision was driven by the “extremely sharp escalation of threats” on the western borders of both countries.
Rising tensions with the West prompt Russia’s decision
Citing the need to counter potential threats, Minister Shoigu emphasized the decision to deploy nuclear missiles in Belarus was a response to the heightened tensions in the region. The move comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement in March regarding the planned deployment. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Putin has repeatedly asserted that the country would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons to safeguard its “territorial integrity.” The announcement sparked concerns among NATO and Ukraine, with the latter accusing Belarus of being “taken hostage” by Moscow.
Moscow retains control over weapons and decisions on their use
Russian Defence Minister Shoigu confirmed that Moscow would maintain control over the tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Belarus. He clarified that decisions regarding the use of these weapons would rest with Russia. Shoigu disclosed that Iskander-M missiles, capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads, had already been provided to the Belarusian armed forces. Additionally, certain Su-25 aircraft had been modified for potential nuclear weapon deployment. Belarusian servicemen underwent training in Russian training centers to prepare for the new responsibilities associated with these weapons.
Training and establishment of a special storage facility for nuclear weapons in Belarus
Minister Shoigu revealed that the signed agreements with his Belarusian counterpart included provisions for training Belarusian servicemen and establishing a “special storage facility for nuclear weapons” on Belarusian soil. This development raises concerns among neighboring countries, as tactical nuclear weapons are designed for battlefield use and possess lower yields compared to strategic weapons capable of causing mass destruction. Notably, Russia has not disclosed the exact number of tactical nuclear weapons it possesses, leaving many uncertain about the scale and potential implications of this deployment.