Russia Will Put Nuclear Weapons In Belarus—First Time Since Fall Of Soviet Union
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Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Saturday Russia will station some of its nuclear weapons in Belarus, the first time Russia will base such weapons outside the country in more than 30 years, amid growing tensions between Russia and the U.S., including a warning of a possible nuclear conflict by Russian officials.

Key Facts

Putin told state television that Russia had reached an agreement with close ally Belarus and President Alexander Lukashenko to store tactical nuclear weapons there, according to multiple outlets, after Lukashenko first raised the prospect.

A decision to move nuclear weapons to Belarus “is nothing unusual,” Putin said, adding “the United States has been doing this for decades.”

The U.S. does have nuclear warheads stored in Europe as part of its membership with NATO, according to the organization, though it is unknown when the U.S. sent its weapons abroad.

Russia will complete the construction of a storage facility for the weapons by July 1, Putin added, though the transferral of warheads will not violate “our international obligations on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.”

Putin previously vowed to expand Russia’s nuclear arsenal in an announcement last month after he suspended Russia’s role in the New START nuclear arms control treaty—a 2011 agreement with the U.S. that placed limits on Russia’s intercontinental-range nuclear weapons.

Crucial Quote

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council and the country’s former president, warned earlier this week that support for Ukraine “brings the nuclear apocalypse closer.” He added that Russia’s “relations with the West are already worse than they have ever been in history.”

Big Number

5,977. That’s how many nuclear warheads Russia has in its arsenal, according to estimates by the Federation of American Scientists, compared to the 5,428 of the United States

Surprising Fact

It is estimated the Soviet Union had between 35,000 and 45,000 nuclear warheads at the time of its collapse in 1991. Of these, 3,200 were stationed across Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, though they were dismantled the following year.

Key Background

Relations between Russia, neighboring European countries and the U.S. have worsened in the year since it invaded Ukraine. A decision to move nuclear warheads into Belarus follows an arrest warrant issued for Putin by the International Criminal Court, which alleges Putin has illegally deported Ukrainian children from Ukraine. Russia has denounced the court’s warrant and allegations, noting it does not support or recognize the ICC. A possibility that Russia would use nuclear weapons in its conflict with Ukraine was posed previously, including a plea by China’s deputy UN ambassador Dai Bing, who said “nuclear weapons cannot be used, nuclear war cannot be fought.” President Joe Biden, who called Russia’s suspension of the START treaty a “big mistake,” said he won’t “read into that” that Russia will use nuclear weapons.

Further Reading

Russia Has The Most Nuclear Weapons In The World—Here Are The Other Countries With The Largest Nuclear Arsenals (Forbes)

Putin Says Moscow To Station Nuclear Weapons In Belarus, First Time Since 1990s (Reuters)

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