The Russian ambassador to Belarus, Boris Gryzlov, said Sunday that Russian tactical nuclear weapons will be placed in western Belarus, near its border with NATO members.
According to The Associated Press, Gryzlov said the nuclear weapons will be “moved up close to the Western border of our Union State.” The union state refers to the combined territories of Russia and Belarus.
Belarus neighbors Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania, making the country’s border with NATO territory nearly 800 miles. “It will expand our defense capability, and it will be done regardless of all the noise in Europe and the United States,” Gryzlov added.
Gryzlov’s comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he will be deploying tactical nukes to Belarus in response to the UK providing Ukraine with depleted uranium ammunition for its British-made tanks. The Russian leader said a facility to store the weapons should be completed by July 1.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Friday that Russia might also deploy strategic nuclear weapons, which have a much higher nuclear yield than tactical warheads. “Putin and I will decide and introduce here, if necessary, strategic weapons, and they must understand this, the scoundrels abroad, who today are trying to blow us up from inside and outside,” Lukashenko said.
Tactical nuclear weapons can range between 0.3 and 170 kilotons (the yield of the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima was 15 kilotons), while strategic warheads can go over 1,000 kilotons. The US has about 100 B-61 tactical nuclear bombs deployed in Europe under NATO’s nuclear sharing program.
When justifying his decision to send nukes to Belarus, Putin pointed to NATO nuclear sharing program. “The United States has been doing this for decades. They have long deployed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allied countries,” he said. Under NATO nuclear sharing, there are US B-61 nukes in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, and the Netherlands.