In a new development of the Russian-Ukrainian war, President Vladimir Putin has announced that Moscow would deploy tactical nuclear weapons in neighbouring Belarus, stressing that 10 aircraft had already been sent to Minsk that could carry tactical nuclear weapons. Putin said in a televised speech that the two leaderships in Moscow and Minsk had agreed on the step, pointing out that Russia did not violate the International Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
This announcement sparked great criticism from Western countries, while NATO denounced “dangerous and irresponsible rhetoric” emanating from Russia. The European Union threatened Minsk with new sanctions in the event of the deployment of these weapons. According to the Polish news agency “PAB”, a spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry said that this step “is an escalation of threats to peace in Europe and the world.”
In an immediate reaction, Ukraine called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, appealing to the four other permanent members, namely the United States, Britain, China, and France, to adopt measures to confront Russia’s “nuclear blackmail”. Kyiv also called on the Group of Seven major industrialized nations and the European Union to warn Belarus of the repercussions of such deployment of nuclear weapons.
Indeed, an emergency session was held, and during that session, Robert Wood, the representative of the United States of America, regarding the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus, said that Moscow is seeking further escalation in its “provocative and unjustified” war on Ukraine, instead of seeking peace. Wood added in his speech that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus is not related to Nuclear Sharing, and there are no defensive reasons for Moscow to place nuclear weapons in Belarus. The US delegate also strongly criticized the Belarusian regime’s allowing Putin to announce the deployment of nuclear weapons on its soil, in addition to the approval of several constitutional amendments in February 2022, which are incompatible with the will of the Belarusian people, stressing that Washington calls on the Belarusian president not to get involved in the Russian war on Ukraine.
As usual, European countries and the United States focused on the Russian reaction and did not mention the provocations that prompted Russia and Belarus to threaten to share nuclear weapons. In fact, this dangerous decision by Putin came as a response to Britain’s announcement of its intention to supply Ukraine with ammunition containing “depleted uranium”. This is where Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that such a step would represent a “serious escalation of the conflict,” while his British counterpart, James Cleverly, responded by saying that there was no “nuclear escalation.” “This is a step towards a more dangerous exacerbation of the conflict,” Lavrov said, during a press conference in the city of “Sochi”, in southern Russia, referring in particular to its consequences for the health of the population and the risk of soil pollution.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus confirmed that the deployment of Russian tactical weapons on the territory of Belarus comes in response to Western pressures and threats from NATO expansion. “Belarus has been under unprecedented pressure from the United States, the United Kingdom, and their allies for two and a half years,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, denouncing “direct and brazen interference” in Minsk’s internal affairs. The ministry added that the economic and political sanctions imposed on this former Soviet republic, an ally of Russia, are accompanied by “strengthening the military capacity” of NATO on the territory of its member states and neighboring Belarus. At the end of the statement, the ministry affirmed that under these circumstances Belarus finds itself “compelled to take decisive response measures, stressing at the same time that Minsk will not control these weapons, stressing that their deployment does not contradict in any way with Articles 1 and 2 of the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons.
In fact, Belarus has been reluctant to participate directly in the conflict since its inception. Also, Belarusian President Lukashenko confirmed that he would not order his forces to fight alongside Russia unless another country launched an attack on his country. Accordingly, Belarus did not participate directly with its ally Russia in the ongoing military operation in Ukraine. Many Western countries also acknowledged that they did not notice any missile leaving Belarusian territory, nor any soldier entering the territory of Ukraine. The latest of these confirmations was issued by the Pentagon, which said that “there is no evidence that Belarus has introduced military forces into Ukraine.” In addition, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko summarized his country’s role in the Russian operation, saying: “Our mission is to prevent the advancing Russian forces from being stabbed from behind, and we must never allow that, as it is closer to treachery.” Nevertheless, Western sanctions included Belarus as well as Russia, which indicates the West’s realization of the nature of the exceptional relationship between the two sister countries in the former Soviet Union and the West’s desire to besiege Belarus to change its geopolitical affiliations.
Certainly, European and American provocations and American stubbornness are what determine the course of the war in Ukraine from the beginning. The United States of America, from the outset, relied on two main pillars, which are provoking the Russian side and then exaggerating the interpretation of its reactions to condemn it internationally, whatever the consequences. So far, this plan is effective, as provocations always succeed in escalating the war.
Until now, the American side knows very well that what they describe as the beginning of a nuclear war is incorrect and that it is an exaggeration. This is where Putin does not intend to use nuclear weapons but is making these threats in the hope of weakening Ukrainian morale and reducing Western aid to reduce the effectiveness of rumors of an imminent Ukrainian counterattack, according to the American Institute for the Study of War.
However, no one knows how much European and American provocations can change the course of the war in Ukraine. But what is certain so far is that these provocations may lead to an expansion of the scope of the war and may also lead to the accession of Belarus to Russia, which will certainly change the course of the war completely. The real danger is not in waging a nuclear war as the West promotes, but the real danger is that the area of war will expand as a result of successive pressures and provocations, and we will find ourselves in a scenario similar to that of World War II.
Dr. Marwa El-Shinawy: Academic and writer