March 25 – March 31, 2024
Security issues

Playing with fire. The Kremlin and Minsk consider the possibility of using nuclear weapons

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Playing with fire. The Kremlin and Minsk consider the possibility of using nuclear weapons
Карикатура: Deutsche Welle

The Kremlin and the Belarusian regime are considering the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine and NATO’s “eastern flank” countries.

Valery Sakhashchik, a representative of the United Transitional Cabinet for Defense and National Security, stated that the Kremlin and the Belarusian regime are developing a plan to capture Vilnius using nuclear weapons. According to Russian and Belarusian military strategists, such a development should shock the civilized world and halt Western resistance. In this scenario, Moscow and Minsk rely on the moral weakness of opponents, who may not dare to actively resist Russia in the face of the risk of nuclear war.

Therefore, the plan is based on aggression from Russia and Belarus against Vilnius using conventional means along with a demonstrative strike with tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) against Lithuania or another state (such as Ukraine) accompanied by a subsequent ultimatum. However, Sakhashchik clarifies that while the scenario is being prepared, it may not necessarily be executed, especially if NATO countries and Belarusian society take adequate measures of military and civil resistance.

Lukashenka rushed to distance himself from accusations of preparing a “nuclear blitzkrieg” during a trip to the Grodno region. There, the politician inspected the readiness of units of the 19th Mechanized Brigade of the Northwestern Operational Command. However, Lukashenka did not rule out that in the event of such a hypothetical attack, NATO units would not defend Lithuania and would evacuate, as “this is not the land of Americans and Germans.” Thus, the politician indirectly confirmed that such a scenario is being considered.

Similarly, he indirectly outlined the prospects of a new Russian and Belarusian invasion of Ukraine — into territory where French/NATO forces may be located to free up the 120,000-strong Ukrainian Armed Forces group for other directions. Lukashenka believes that in such a scenario, the French would also not defend Ukraine.

As shown by a series of military-strategic simulation games conducted on the Hegemon platform since 2014, the invasion of Russian and Belarusian forces into the Baltic countries is not the most likely scenario. This is because during military operations against the national forces of these countries, as well as multinational battalion tactical groups of NATO, they would become bogged down for several weeks. During this time, NATO Joint Forces would build up sufficient military presence on the “eastern flank,” primarily in Poland, to effectively counter the Russian-Belarusian troop grouping.

Therefore, the most probable direction of invasion is the simultaneous movement of several groups of Russian and Belarusian forces towards Kaliningrad through the Suwalki Corridor, to Bialystok, Warsaw, etc., with the aim of establishing control over the territory of eastern Poland up to the Vistula River. This allows for blocking the Baltic countries without wasting time and resources on attempting to establish control over this territory.

In this scenario, Russia carries out massive TNW strikes from Belarusian territory against civilian and military logistics infrastructure (bridges over the Vistula, railway junctions, airfields), weapons depots and fuel storage facilities, as well as concentrations of military equipment and personnel. Given that such a scenario involves a breach of the “nuclear taboo,” it involves massive nuclear strikes on both Polish territory and other countries on NATO’s “eastern flank.” They are considered by Russian strategists as a single operational foothold and theater of military operations. Such intimidating use of TNW within the framework of the “escalation to de-escalation” concept, according to Russian strategists, is capable of instilling fear in the opponent and forcing them to de-escalate military operations on Russian terms.

However, the implementation of such a scenario will only be possible after the successful completion of Russia’s military campaign against Ukraine. This is impossible without the renewed use of Belarusian territory as a foothold for a northern attack and, probably, the use of TNW to breach fortified strips and defense areas of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

For both of the above scenarios, the Kremlin will first need to create a strike group in Belarus with a strength of at least 200,000 personnel, and to address the tasks of nuclear strike against the enemy, deploy 2-6 aviation regiments of front-line aircraft and 3-5 missile brigades. In turn, nuclear warheads for them have already been delivered to Belarus, and the choice of their deployment indicates preparation for operational use of TNW.

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