Belarus is to amended its military doctrine to permit the use of nuclear weapons, just months after Russian nukes were positioned there for the first time.
In May last year Moscow and Minsk finalized an agreement to allow Russia to position tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. In June President Putin said that deliveries had begun, then in December President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed that deliveries had been completed in October. This was the first time nuclear weapons had been placed outside of Russia’s borders.
The positioning of nuclear weapons in Belarus which borders Poland, Latvia and Lithuania and whose border is less than 200 kilometers from Ukraine’s capital caused international concern.
This was particularly because, although Minsk had not directly participated in the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it had facilitated Russian troop and air movements and continues to do so.
Although fears were slightly allayed initially as both Lukashenko and Russia’s President Putin spelled out that the weapons would remain under Kremlin control, the announcement of a change in the Belarus nuclear doctrine has raised concerns among Ukraine and its NATO allies.
The announcement was made by the Belarus defense minister, Viktor Khrenin, during Tuesday’s meeting of Minsk’s security council.
“We will clearly communicate our views on the use of tactical nuclear weapons stationed on our territory,” Khrenin said. “A new chapter has appeared, where we will clearly define our allied obligations to our allies.”
The doctrine is to be presented for approval to the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, a representative body that operates in Belarus in parallel with its parliament. Belarus is closely allied with Russia, and had held both tactical and long-range nuclear weapons when part of the Soviet Union as did Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
They gave up their nuclear weapons, along with the other two former Soviet republics, as part of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.
The nuclear weapons Russia sent are tactical weapons intended for battlefield use and have relatively short ranges and comparatively low yields.
It is not clear how many weapons have been stationed in Belarus and it’s not immediately clear whether this new doctrine will concern the possible use of the Russian weapons.
The Belarus security council secretary, Alexander Volfovich, said that the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus was intended to deter aggression from Poland, a NATO member. “Unfortunately, statements by our neighbors, in particular Poland … forced us to strengthen the military doctrine," he said.
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