Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that the first Russian tactical nuclear weapons have arrived in Belarus and that the full deployment will be completed by the end of the year.
“The first nuclear warheads have been delivered to Belarusian territory. This is the first batch. We will complete this work by the end of this year,” Putin said, according to the Russian news agency TASS.
The Russian leader said the deployment will serve as a warning. “So that everyone who is thinking about hitting us strategically will not forget about this fact,” Putin said.
When asked about the news on Saturday, President Biden called the deployment “irresponsible.” Putin has compared the move to NATO’s nuclear sharing program, under which there are US B61 nuclear gravity bombs stored in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
When Putin first announced the deployment, he said it was being done in response to the UK providing Ukraine with depleted uranium ammunition, which causes environmental damage and is linked to cancer and birth defects. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the US will also likely arm Kyiv with depleted uranium for use with the US-made Abrams tank.
Polish President Andrzej Duda has called for NATO to respond to Putin placing nuclear weapons in Belarus. Duda didn’t specify what the response should be but has previously said he wants the US to deploy nuclear weapons in Poland.