As war escalates between Russia and Ukraine, Russia has put its signatures on documents which will allow it to store its non-strategic nuclear weapons in a special facility at the Republic of Belarus.
According to reports, Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation Sergei Shoigu and Minister of Defence of Belarus Viktor Khrenin have signed documents which have outlined the process for storing the Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons.
The Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu after the inking of the documents stressed that the actions taken by the two countries – Russia and Belarus ‘comply with all relevant international legal responsibilities’.
What does this mean in simple terms?
Author of soon to be released book on Russia Ukraine War: ‘Operation Z Live’ Neeraj Rajput tells Financial Express Online: “Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons will not be confined to its own territories but they will now be deployed in Belarus also which also borders other European countries.”
“It means that now Russian tactical nuclear weapons will be deployed or stored in Belarus. Although Russia has said that it will be a special facility for storing Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons, in a way it can mean that now those tactical nuclear weapons will be deployed in Belarus,” adds Neeraj Rajput, who has done ground reporting from the war zone of Donbass in 2022.
In his view “If the US, the UK and other NATO forces send their weapons to Ukraine, then Russia can also arm its own allies — like Belarus.”
What are Tactical Weapons?
Nuclear weapons used for specific tactical gains on the battlefield. Therefore, they are usually smaller in yield than the strategic nuclear weapons which are designed to destroy the biggest cities of Russia and the US.
When did the Kremlin announce the nuclear deployment?
Earlier this year in March the plan for nuclear deployment was announced by the Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview with state television.
Though Russia will remain in control of the weapons, reports in the public domain indicate that there is no clarity when exactly is Russia going to deploy the tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Belarus shares borders with three NATO countries – Latvia, Poland, and Lithuania.
The Iskander-m missiles, which are capable of carrying nuclear or conventional warheads, have already been handed over to the armed forces of Belarus. Also some Su-25 aircraft have been converted/modified which can carry nuclear weapons when required.
The Russian defence minister, according to reports, has said that the servicemen of Belarus have been given the necessary training and the two countries will take further measures to ensure the security of these weapons.
Based on the information in the public domain the US believes that Russia has around 2,000 working tactical warheads, and the US claims it just has 200 such weapons out of which half are at different bases in Europe – the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Turkey.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
The NPT signed by the erstwhile Soviet Union states no nuclear power can transfer nuclear technology or weapons to a non nuclear power. However, the treaty does allow for the weapons to be deployed outside its border but under its control.