How Eastern Europe is reacting to Putin’s decision to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus

On March 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, with a storage facility to be ready by July.

Photo: An activist from Germany wears a mask of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as he holds a mock missile during a demonstration against the ending of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in Berlin, Germany, 1 August 2019. [EPA-EFE/OMER MESSINGER]

NATO called Russia’s nuclear rhetoric “dangerous and irresponsible,” and the United States said it saw no signs of Russia preparing to use nuclear weapons.

EU Diplomacy Chief Josep Borrell sees the possible relocation of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus as a threat to European security.

Tactical nuclear weapons threaten Poland and the Baltic states. These Eastern European states share a common border with Russia and its satellite Belarus.

The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs called Russia’s intention to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus a step toward further involving Minsk in the Russian military machine.

This was stated by Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Łukasz Jasina in a comment to RMF 24.

“We believe that Vladimir Putin’s decision to deploy tactical nuclear weapons and means of their delivery in Belarus further increases tensions over Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. This is another step towards involving Belarus in the cogs of the Russian military machine,” said the spokesman.

He added that this also creates risks in terms of nuclear non-proliferation.

“Russia’s actions confirm the legitimacy and importance of NATO’s deterrence policy, in which Poland participates,” Jasina emphasized.

He also refrained from answering the question of whether Poland would consider joining NATO’s tactical nuclear weapons program.

“Poland is doing everything to ensure its security, but such statements will not come from the mouth of the press secretary,” Jasina replied.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs called for new sanctions after Moscow’s statements about its intention to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus.

He posted this statement on his Twitter account.

Rinkēvičs noted that Russia’s nuclear plans for Belarus are another sign of its rapprochement with the Kremlin.

Lithuania also said it would demand new sanctions over Russia’s plans to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus.

“Together with its Euro-Atlantic partners, Lithuania will decide how to respond to these militaristic plans of the Russian and Belarusian regimes…As one of the measures in response, Lithuania will call for new sanctions,” the statement said.

According to the Lithuanian ministry, Belarus is increasingly losing its sovereignty and becoming more and more involved in Russia’s military plans, which poses an additional risk to the Baltic Sea region.

The Kremlin’s overtly aggressive steps will require a response from NATO and the EU. Additional sanctions should be only the first step.

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