Nuclear weapons in Belarus will provoke new Western sanctions and cool relations with China
Deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus will not only intensify western sanctions and contribute to the final delegitimization of Lukashenka but will also deprive the Belarusian regime of the last remnants of support from China, as Lukashenka promised not to participate in escalating the Russian-Ukrainian war.
The announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin of plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus provided the West with an additional argument for increasing sanctions on the Belarusian regime. Poland is at the forefront of negotiating with European leaders new restrictions to assemble the 11th package of EU sanctions. Warsaw is making a special effort to persuade opponents of stricter sanctions, such as Portugal. Poland is also considering limiting all freight and passenger traffic with Belarus.
Lithuania considers the deployment of nuclear weapons to Belarus as desperate step by Putin and Lukashenka to amplify tension and destabilise Europe, and will decide how to respond to this together with Euro-Atlantic partners. This action draws Belarus further into the war against Ukraine. Kyiv believes that Putin’s announcement is intended to blackmail the Americans into agreeing to immediate negotiations aimed at ending the war on Russian terms.
However, China reminded the Kremlin of its commitment to reduce strategic risks, and at the UN Security Council, called for abandoning notions of deploying of nuclear weapons abroad. China also thanked the UN High Representative for Disarmament Izumi Nakamitsu for her briefing, in which she highlighted that countries should avoid actions that could lead to escalation and adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Meanwhile, Japan plans to discuss tightening sanctions against Belarus in the context of nuclear weapon deployments with its partners in the Group of Seven (G7).
The United States has not detected nuclear weapons moving from Russia to Belarus, however, it is concerned by Russian plans. Washington considers the Kremlin statement extremely irresponsible and escalatory, and that the behaviour of the Belarusian regime destabilises the OSCE region.
Tsikhanouskaya’s office and the Joint Transitional Cabinet are trying to exploit US concerns and are lobbying Congress to focus the draft law on democracy, sovereignty, and human rights in Belarus more closely on Lukashenka. Washington also announced the launch of a strategic dialogue with democratic forces in exile, plans to appoint a special envoy for Belarus in the coming months, and opposes the easing of sanctions on potash fertilizers.
In response, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry claimed that nuclear deployment plans are a reaction to Western pressure and denied any breach of the NPT, since operational control and relevant controlled technologies will not transfer to Minsk.
This statement contradicts Lukashenka’s claim that Belarus will control such weapons. New and tougher restrictions are just around the corner – and not just from the West.
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Situation in Belarus