The regime demands full security guarantees and strategic nuclear weapons from Russia
Minsk and Moscow are discussing deepening military-political cooperation, expanding the Russian military presence in Belarus, and deploying tactical and possibly strategic nuclear weapons. The preparation of a special treaty is designed to provide Russian security guarantees for Belarus in the event of the Russian-Ukrainian war evolving into a regional war, suggesting preparations for the entry of the Belarusian army into hostilities against Ukraine. In response to the Global Thunder 2023 US strategic deterrence exercises, the Union State will conduct similar exercises with practical Belarusian participation.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in Minsk to meet with Lukashenka to conclude the agreements reached by Lukashenka and Putin during a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State on April 6th in Moscow.
The main topics of conversation were the provision of Russian security guarantees in the event of aggression against Minsk, as well as the preparation and coordination of the Regional Group of Forces of Belarus and Russia, and the expansion of the Russian military presence to include tactical and strategic nuclear weapons (SNW).
Lukashenka wants Russia to defend Belarus as a sovereign territory and proposes an interstate treaty to ensure Belarusian security. According to the Belarusian military leadership, Belarus has always been a NATO target since the days of the USSR. Excessive attention to topics of war and nuclear weapons is according to Minsk a Western attempt to escalate the situation.
Meanwhile, the Belarusian regime confirmed that nuclear-capable aircraft and a modern Iskander missile system have already been deployed, and the training of operators in Russia is nearing completion. Belarusian pilots of Su-25 attack aircraft have also completed preparations for using tactical nuclear weapons. However, Russia claims that the only aircraft operated by the Belarusian Air Force capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons is the Su-30SM supplied by Russia. Minsk is forced to take these steps because Western politicians will not negotiate.
Minsk also intends to deploy Russian strategic nuclear weapons, and preparation of existing sites in Belarus is already underway. The Belarusian regime is probably anticipating that the Kremlin will transfer Topol ICBMs to Belarus, which Russia plans to decommission in 2024 and replace with the more advanced Yars system.
Against this background, the US Strategic Command announced the start of the annual Global Thunder nuclear command and control exercises from April 11th, intended to increase nuclear readiness and ensure security via strategic deterrence. British forces will also be involved in the exercises. While it is noted that such drills are held annually and are not a response to external actors, the timing this year indicates the opposite. In 2021, the Global Thunder exercise was held in November, and in 2022 it was cancelled due to the pandemic, leading to NATO and Russia conducting near-simultaneous nuclear deterrence exercises in October 2022. Therefore, it is possible that shortly similar exercises will be held within the framework of the Union State with the practical participation of Belarusian forces.
The Belarusian regime believes that the presence of Russian nuclear weapons provides a complete security guarantee from Russia since they must deter military aggression from Ukraine and the West in the event of an expansion of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
While Minsk counts on nuclear deterrence of hypothetical military aggression, the Russian deployment indicates preparations for a new, joint offensive against Ukraine from Belarusian territory, possibly involving tactical nuclear weapons. The deployment of strategic nuclear weapons in this logic is designed to deter the United States and its allies from a retaliatory nuclear missile strike on Belarus due to the unacceptable risks of further escalation to strategic level.
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Situation in Belarus