The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenkosaid that if any other country wanted to join a union of Moscow and Minsk there could be “nuclear weapons for all.”
Russia last week moved forward with a plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, in the Kremlin’s first deployment of such warheads outside Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, raising concerns in the West.
In an interview published by Russian state television late on Sunday, Lukashenko, President Vladimir Putin’s staunchest ally among Russia’s neighbors, said it must be “strategically understood” that Minsk and Moscow have a unique opportunity to unite..
“No one is against Kazakhstan and other countries having the same close relations that we have with the Russian Federation.”, declared Lukashenko.
“If anyone cares, (then) it’s very simple: unite in the State of the Union of Belarus and Russia. That’s all: there will be nuclear weapons for everyone”.
He added that it was his own opinion, not Russia’s.
Russia and Belarus are formally part of a State of the Union, a borderless union and alliance between the two former Soviet republics.
Russia used the territory of Belarus as launching pad for their invasion of Ukraine in February of last year and since then their military cooperation has intensified, with joint training exercises on Belarusian soil.
The Belarusian Defense Ministry reported on Sunday the arrival from Moscow of another unit of the S-400 mobile surface-to-air missile systems, which will soon be combat-ready.
On Thursday, the defense ministers of Russia, Sergei Shoigu, and of Belarus, Viktor Khrenin, signed in Minsk a series of documents regulating the storage of Russian tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory.
“In the context of an extremely strong escalation of threats and the activity of NATO joint nuclear missions, we are obliged to take retaliatory measures in the military-nuclear sphere,” said Shoigu, who also stressed that, while Russia deploys non-strategic nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus, Moscow will retain control over them and over the decision on their eventual use.
Both countries signed the documents after Putin announced an agreement with Lukashenko in March for the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in the neighboring country and the Belarusian Army received training in April on the use of special tactical ammunition for the missile system. Iskander-M.
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, condemned on Friday the transfer of Russian tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus and considered it “a step that will lead to a new extremely dangerous escalation”.
In a statement, Borrell warned that the decision is contrary to various international commitments of both countries, which among other provisions required Belarus to eliminate all nuclear weapons from its territory, and the Joint Declaration of the leaders of the five States possessing nuclear weapons of January 3, 2022, according to which a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
“The Belarusian regime is complicit in Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. We call on the Belarusian authorities to immediately end their support for Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine, and to reverse decisions that can only contribute to increasing tensions in the region and undermine Belarus’ sovereignty,” said the head of community diplomacy. “Any attempt to further escalate the situation will be met with a strong and coordinated reaction,” Borrell warned.
(With information from Reuters and EFE)
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