Politics Economy Energy War Reforms Anticorruption Society

Putin's three goals: why does he need nuclear weapons in Belarus

Putin's three goals: why does he need nuclear weapons in Belarus © depositphotos/Dipsky
The Kremlin continues to gamble on raising stakes

Putin continues to play to raise the stakes, thus seeking in the chaos he is creating to split the West, reduce its support for Ukraine and achieve a "total victory" in the war. The bet has traditionally been on nuclear blackmail: in an interview with the Russia 24 channel, Putin said that tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) would be deployed in Belarus. In addition, he said that Lukashenka had allegedly raised this issue for a long time. According to the president of the Russian Federation, such a step was prompted by the statement of Great Britain to supply ammunitions with depleted uranium to Ukraine.

Putin also said that Russia had already sent the Iskander missile systems to Belarus, which can carry TNW, and will start training its crews on April 3. In addition, on July 1, the Russians will complete the construction of a nuclear fuel storage facility in the neighboring country of the "unified state", and ten aircraft capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons are already stationed at Belarusian airfields. The Russian president then clarified that the Russian Federation is not transferring its nuclear weapons to Belarus, but is "doing what the USA has been doing for decades."


Putin announced the plans to place TNW in the neighboring country four days after the end of the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow. And in a joint Sino-Russian statement it is said that "all nuclear states must not deploy nuclear weapons outside their national territories and must withdraw all nuclear weapons deployed abroad." So what happened: did Putin fulfill the secret agreement with Xi or did he cheat his "dear friend" in a brotherly way?

It is noteworthy that immediately after Xi's visit, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev resorted to nuclear blackmail. "Has the threat of nuclear conflict passed? No, it hasn't passed. It has increased. Every day of foreign arms deliveries to Ukraine ultimately brings a nuclear apocalypse closer," the former Russian president claimed, answering questions from Russian journalists and users of the VKontakte social network.

Given the specifics of the negotiations between the two authoritarian leaders in Moscow, it is still impossible to say with certainty whether Xi Jinping has given his consent to the deployment of Russian nuclear warheads in Belarus. However, in a conversation with ZN.UA, the associate professor of the Educational and Scientific Institute of International Relations of KNU named after T. Shevchenko Viktor Konstantinov noted that in any case, Beijing will not react to Moscow's decision, but will simply accept it silently. This will happen because China benefits from any escalation in the world, which forces the USA to react and thus distracts the White House from concentrating its efforts on countering the PRC.


 From the point of view of international law, formally, Putin does not violate Russia's obligations under either the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) or the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). After all, according to the provisions of the NPT, each of its member states possessing nuclear weapons undertakes not to transfer these weapons or other nuclear explosive devices to anyone, as well as control over them, either directly or indirectly.

Actually, this is what the United States of America did back during the Cold War, when it deployed TNW on the territory of Turkey and Western Europe. (Currently, about 100 tactical nuclear aerial bombs are stationed there.) In addition, despite the repeated statements of representatives of the Russian Federation that the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons by the USA in Western Europe is a violation of the NPT, this position of Moscow did not prevent it during the times of the USSR from deploying nuclear components on the territory of its allies in Europe.

Belarus does not formally violate its obligations either: Minsk does not accept tactical nuclear weapons from Moscow and does not gain control over them, giving the Russians only its territory. And in February, the mention of nuclear-free status was removed from Article 18 of the Constitution of Belarus. Back then, the head of the EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said: "We know what it means for Belarus to become a nuclear (country. – V. K). This means that Russia will deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus, and this is a very dangerous path."

And so it happened.

Russian Telegram channels write that "Lukashenka agreed to deploy nuclear weapons in exchange for refusing to deploy Russian tactical groups and direct participation in the Ukrainian conflict." It is not yet possible to verify this statement. And the experts of the Institute for the Study of War do not rule out that the Russian president could have planned to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus even before the invasion of Ukraine, and now he simply took advantage of a convenient opportunity.

In any case, placing nuclear power plants in Belarus means serious risks for the republic, since Russia is not only building a nuclear military base in this country, but also exposing the country to the threat of a nuclear strike. Moscow's decision also undermines the principles of nuclear non-proliferation and destroys the architecture of nuclear disarmament. Therefore, NATO called the Kremlin's decision "dangerous and irresponsible", and the EU promised to introduce new sanctions. In turn, Ukraine demands to convene an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council.

However, does the potential appearance of Russian tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus mean that the Kremlin is ready to use them?

The United States of America and NATO officials say they see no signs of Russia moving nuclear weapons to Belarus or of readiness to use them. After all, it seems that Putin has already realized the limited military results and global geopolitical consequences of using tactical nuclear weapons. And the Russian president's explanation of the reason for making the decision to place TNW in Belarus seems unconvincing. Putin's goals are primarily political.

They are indirectly related to Belarus. Thus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Poland called Russia's intention to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus a step to further involve Minsk into the Russian military machine. In addition, the self-proclaimed president of Belarus, Lukashenka, will have even fewer opportunities to influence the events in his country, since it is the Russians who will control the nuclear weapons and make decisions about their use.

However, the main goals are as follows. Firstly, to take advantage of the West's fear of nuclear escalation to create misunderstandings among Western democracies and reduce support for Ukraine. (Actually speaking, this threat is seen in the Old and New Worlds. For example, the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany called Russia's decision another "attempt at nuclear intimidation".) Nevertheless, such tactics bring Putin some success: after his interview, the Vice President of Bulgaria, Iliana Iotova, urged to sit down at the negotiating table with Russia.

Secondly, to take advantage of the fear of pacifists that the USA, in response to Russia's actions, will start placing similar types of nuclear weapons in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe or even in Ukraine. In this way, the Kremlin will indirectly try to increase the pressure on the governments that support Ukraine.

Thirdly, by threatening with the placement of TNW in Belarus, to induce the United States of America to negotiate. Earlier, Putin had already raised the stakes in the confrontation with the United States of America, when in his message to the US Congress he announced the suspension of Russia's participation in the START, said that the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and the State Atomic Energy Corporation «Rosatom» should prepare for nuclear tests if necessary, and announced the signing of a decree on combat rotation of new strategic ground-based systems. Now he took another step forward.

As noted by the experts of the Institute for the Study of War, Putin constantly threatens to use nuclear weapons without any intention to see the matter through. The decision to place TNW in Belarus is fully in line with Putin's intention to demonstrate that Russia still has opportunities to further destabilize the situation in Europe if its interests are ignored. In other words, this is another attempt by the Kremlin to persuade the White House to sit down at the negotiating table and conclude new "Yalta agreements".

Read this article in russian and Ukrainian.

Noticed an error?

Please select it with the mouse and press Ctrl+Enter or Submit a bug

Stay up to date with the latest developments!
Subscribe to our channel in Telegram
Follow on Telegram
Total comments: 0
Text contains invalid characters
Characters left: 2000
Пожалуйста выберите один или несколько пунктов (до 3 шт.) которые по Вашему мнению определяет этот комментарий.
Пожалуйста выберите один или больше пунктов
Нецензурная лексика, ругань Флуд Нарушение действующего законодательства Украины Оскорбление участников дискуссии Реклама Разжигание розни Признаки троллинга и провокации Другая причина Отмена Отправить жалобу ОК