Briefly: Russian president Vladimir Putin has announced plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus by July. Putin said he took the decision after the UK announced it was supplying Ukraine with anti-tank munitions containing depleted uranium.
The West criticised the move as a dangerous escalation, noting the UK’s depleted uranium shells aren’t nuclear weapons: they’ve been stripped of most radioactive material, but have extra density that can pierce a tank’s armour.
On the other hand, tactical nukes can flatten cities (and strategic nukes can flatten countries). For his part, Putin pointed out that the US has stationed nuclear weapons in Europe for decades.
Intrigue’s take: Anyone else feel deja-vu? Putin has made various nuclear threats since invading Ukraine, but little has come of it so far.
- In February 2022, he put Russia’s nuclear arsenal on high alert.
- In September 2022, Putin said his nuclear threats were “not a bluff”.
- In February 2023, he suspended Russia’s participation in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty.
Even Russian analysts quoted by state media aren’t sure Moscow will actually go though with the plans.
Still, we’re talking about nukes here. And Belarus already amended its constitution back in December 2021 to host them. So on this topic (if nothing else), we continue to take Putin at his word.
Also worth noting:
- Speaking of taking Putin at his word, his announcement comes just days after he and Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the removal of all nuclear weapons stationed in third countries – awkward.