Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday that he would not hesitate to order the use of Russian tactical nuclear weapons that are set to be deployed to Belarus if his country faces aggression.
Lukashenko, who has been the president of Belarus since 1994 made the statement during a meeting with senior officials, according to the state news agency BelTA.
He said that it was his demand to host Russian nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory, and that he expected them to arrive “in several days”. He added that Belarus also had the facilities to host longer-range strategic nuclear weapons, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, if ever needed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in March that Russia would start deploying short-range nuclear weapons, also known as tactical nuclear weapons, in close ally Belarus after special storage facilities to house them were made ready on July 7-8. Putin said that Russia would retain control of the warheads, but Lukashenko’s statement contradicted that.
The deployment will be Moscow’s first move of such warheads outside Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Tactical nuclear weapons are intended to destroy enemy troops and weapons on the battlefield. They have a relatively short range and a much lower yield than nuclear warheads fitted to intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of obliterating whole cities.
Lukashenko argued that the move was necessary to deter a potential aggression. “I believe no one would be willing to fight a country that has those weapons,” he said. “Those are weapons of deterrence”.
He also said that he would not shy away from using those weapons if Belarus was attacked. “God forbid I have to make a decision to use those weapons today, but there would be no hesitation if we face an aggression,” he said.