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Does Putin have a case for deploying tactical nukes in Belarus?

Russia responds to NATO nukes in Europe with decision to deploy atomic weapons in Belarus

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday announced his decision to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

He was also quoted as saying that the facility to store tactical nukes, which are for use in the battlefield would be completed by July 1. But nuclear weapons may have already been stationed in Belarus. Ten planes that can carry tactical atomic weapons have already been positioned in Belarus.

Expectedly, the declaration triggered a storm of protests, led by NATO, including smearing Russia with the tag of “nuclear blackmail”.

NATO called Putin’s assertion “dangerous and irresponsible”.

The US adopted a wait-and-see approach. Washington will “monitor the implications” of Putin’s threat, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.

“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture nor any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,” she said in a statement.

Putin’s move comes at a time when tensions between Moscow and Washington are on an escalatory path over Ukraine. Earlier this month Russian fighter jets downed a US drone—an event that opened a possible pathway to a direct confrontation between Moscow and Washington.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also visited Moscow—a move that mocked at western attempts to isolate Russia with sanctions. Ahead of Xi’s visit, the lilliputian International Criminal Court (ICC) made a farcical attempt to declare Putin a war criminal. Unsurprisingly, it evoked a rather dark response from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

“I’m afraid, gentlemen, everyone is answerable to God and missiles. It’s quite possible to imagine how a hypersonic Oniks fired from a Russian warship in the North Sea strikes the (ICC) court building in the Hague. It can’t be shot down, I’m afraid. And the court is just a pathetic international organization, not the people of a NATO country. So, they won’t start a war. They’ll be scared. And no one will be sorry,” he was quoted as saying.

Showing the mirror to NATO, Putin spotlighted that Russia’s move was meant not provoke by counter US deployments of nuclear weapons in different European countries.

“We are doing what they have been doing for decades, stationing them in certain allied countries, preparing the launch platforms and training their crews,” Putin said in a state media interview on Saturday. “We are going to do the same thing.”

“An aggressive NATO predates the war. The grouping had positioned nuclear weapons in several European countries including Kleine Brogel (Belgium), Büchel (Germany), Aviano and Ghedi Torre (Italy), Volkel (The Netherlands) and Incirlik (Turkey). On the contrary Russians had not placed nukes abroad and Belarus would be the first country where they will do so. Cleary their move is reactive and not proactive” says Bala Venkatesh Varma, India’s former ambassador to Russia in a conversation with India Narrative.

On Saturday Putin said Russia will complete the construction of a storage facility for the weapons by July 1.

He added that stationing nuclear weapons in Belarus did not violate international non-proliferation agreements, as Moscow would still control the weapons.

Varma, a nuclear disarmament expert added that after the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty expired in… Russia offered an extension of the treaty that bans deployment of intermediate range missiles, confined only to Europe. But the US spurned the offer, he observed.

Also Read: ‘No meaning’: Russia over ICC’s arrest warrant against Putin