NATO criticizes Putin for ‘dangerous’ rhetoric about the use of nuclear weapons in Belarus

The Iskander-M contains two guided missiles with a range of up to 300 miles and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.

Putin said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had long asked for the deployment. There was no immediate response from Lukashenko.

Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan had nuclear weapons stationed on their territory but transferred them to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, so this could be the first time since that Russia has deployed such weapons outside the country.

The US reaction to Putin’s announcement was moderate. National Security Council spokesman Adrienne Watson told NBC News late on Saturday that the US “has seen no reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear stance, nor any indication that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.”

But Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted that the Kremlin was “taking Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”

While the Belarusian army has not formally fought in Ukraine, the country maintains close ties with Russia, and Minsk last year allowed Moscow to use its territory to send troops into Ukraine. The two nations have intensified joint military training. Russia is also Belarus’ largest and most important political and economic partner.

A NATO spokesman called Russia’s nuclear rhetoric “dangerous and irresponsible” and said the organization is “closely monitoring the situation.”

“We have not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear stance that would lead us to adjust ours,” it said. “We are determined to protect and defend all NATO allies.” NATO added that Moscow had “consistently violated its arms control commitments” by recently suspending its participation in the New START treaty. — a major nuclear arms control treaty between the US and Russia, the two largest nuclear powers in the world.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commander of Britain and NATO’s joint chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear regiment, called the plan a “strategic mistake” and “another sign of desperation emanating from the Kremlin.” after 13 months of war in Ukraine and few victories to show for it.

“It seems that Putin is grasping at straws,” he said, adding that Russian troops had been “hammered” around Bakhmut, where brutal battles for control of the eastern city had raged for months, with neither side gaining much ground.

Bringing such weapons closer to NATO countries like Germany, Poland and Lithuania would likely help Western weapons get to Ukraine more quickly, he said. Germany, previously cautious about providing military aid to Ukraine, could be “encouraged” by the possible threat of approaching nuclear weapons, he added.

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