NATO criticises Putin’s “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric


27th March 2023 – (Brussels) NATO has criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin for his “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric, following his announcement of plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Although Putin has claimed that Russia will not violate its nuclear non-proliferation promises, the move marks one of Russia’s clearest nuclear signals since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine over a year ago. Ukraine has called for a meeting of the UN Security Council in response.

Ukrainian officials have said that Russia’s plan to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus would destabilise the country, which they claim has been taken “hostage” by Moscow. The move is significant, as Russia has previously been proud of its refusal to deploy nuclear weapons outside its borders. However, experts have noted that it is unclear how many such weapons Russia has, as the area remains shrouded in Cold War secrecy.

The European Union has joined the chorus of condemnation against Russia, with its foreign policy chief urging Belarus not to host the weapons and threatening further sanctions. However, analysts at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War have said that the risk of escalation to nuclear war “remains extremely low.”

While Washington played down concerns about Putin’s announcement, Representative Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, regarded Russia’s plan as disturbing and designed to intimidate the West. Putin has often portrayed the Ukraine war as Moscow fighting a Ukraine in the grip of supposed Nazis, abetted by Western powers menacing Russia.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has called for an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council after Putin’s announcement, asking the international community to “take decisive measures” to prevent Russia’s use of nuclear weapons. Ukraine has also rejected Putin’s portrayal of the Ukraine war as Moscow fighting supposed Nazis, instead claiming it to be a pretext for a war of conquest.

Russian forces have hit military targets in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, causing significant Ukrainian casualties. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces have repelled 85 Russian attacks over the past 24 hours across the eastern front, including the Bakhmut area, the scene of brutal fighting in the last few months.