9th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Moscow will begin deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus within days, marking the first time Russia has stationed atomic arms outside its borders since the Soviet collapse.
Speaking with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during talks at Putin’s Black Sea residence, the Russian leader said facilities to store the tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus will be ready on 7th – 8th July. “Everything is going according to plan,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript. “We will immediately begin activities related to the deployment of appropriate types of weapons on your territory.”
Lukashenko thanked Putin for the move, which comes as Russia’s war against Ukraine enters its 16th month. Putin has framed the conflict as an existential battle against NATO expansion. The deployment of tactical nukes in Belarus, which borders both Russia and Ukraine, appears aimed at warning the U.S.-led military alliance over its support for Kyiv.
Leading NATO members have pledged to help Ukraine defend itself for “as long as it takes” against what Kyiv calls a Russian imperial-style land grab that threatens Ukraine’s survival. Putin, 70, has said Russia will not back down and has warned the West that the war is a proxy conflict intended to undermine his country.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed Ukraine will fight on until every Russian soldier has left the country. Ukraine aims to join NATO, alarming Moscow. Putin announced plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus in March.
The move is being closely monitored by the U.S. and NATO as well as China, which has urged restraint around nuclear weapons use in Ukraine. After 1991, the U.S. and Russia worked to return Soviet nuclear arms from former Soviet states to Russia. Only the U.S. has used nuclear weapons in war, dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.