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June 5 – June 11, 2023
Security issues

Russia prepares to make Belarus a target by deploying nuclear weapons; the West prepares for escalation

The situation got worse
Russia prepares to make Belarus a target by deploying nuclear weapons; the West prepares for escalation
Испытания тактического ядерного боеприпаса. Источник: Wikimedia Commons.

In early July, Russian tactical nuclear weapons will be deployed to Belarus. Despite the muted rhetoric of Western states, the United States is preparing for nuclear escalation, meaning a tactical nuclear strike by Russia and Belarus against Ukraine. Belarus would then be a potential target for retaliation.

Despite the muted reaction to the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) on Belarusian territory, the West considers nuclear escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict as almost inevitable. Their response is therefore moving to the operational planning stage. Russian destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station leaves little doubt about the Kremlin’s readiness to use unconventional destructive tactics.

It is significant that from May 15th, American SSBNs (nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles) began to increase their operational presence in the Atlantic Ocean. The US Navy (USN) had three submarines from the 20th submarine squadron on combat patrol: the USS Rhode Island on February 13th, the USS Alaska on April 30th, and the USS Maryland on May 11th.

However, on May 19th, they were joined by the USS West Virginia, which returned to King’s Bay base on May 28th and immediately commenced re-arming. Meanwhile, on May 23rd, the USS Wyoming entered the Atlantic, and on June 2nd, the USS Tennessee left port, presumably for Atlantic combat patrols.

Therefore, as of June 3rd, at least five of the six strategic assets of the USN Atlantic Fleet are deployed, both for strategic deterrence and possible retaliatory strikes if Russia and Belarus use tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

Although these are strategic missile submarines, their Trident II D5 intercontinental ballistic missiles can be equipped with a low-yield W76-2 nuclear warhead of 5-8 kilotons, TNT.

A missile armed in this manner was contemplated as a tactical, retaliatory option in a Pentagon strategic simulation dating back to the Obama administration, in the event of Russia use of tactical nuclear weapons against a NATO member state.

American strategists believe that a retaliatory tactical nuclear strike on targets in Belarus will only result in horizontal escalation and will not lead to a strategic exchange between the United States and Russia. A side effect of such retaliatory strikes would be to demonstrate Russian weakness to its allies, thereby depriving Moscow of supporters in Iran and Syria (but not North Korea). It could also lead to the collapse of the Belarusian regime and complicate Moscow’s strategic calculations as its sphere of influence disintegrates and Armenia and Kazakhstan distance themselves.

 

 

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.
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