Putin Takes the Lead: Russia to Station Tactical Nukes in Belarus

by Chloe Baker
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On Saturday, President Putin of Russia said that he wanted to place nuclear weapons in Belarus. This decision happened because the British recently gave Ukraine armor-piercing rounds made with a type of uranium called “depleted uranium”.

Nuclear weapons made for use on battlefields have much less power than the ones used in far away missiles. Russia wants to keep control over the nuclear weapons they are sending to Belarus, and their storage buildings should all be built by July 1st, according to Putin.

Putin did not say how many nuclear weapons Russia would place in Belarus. The U.S. thinks Russia has about 2,000 atomic bombs which can show up on airplanes, missiles, and artillery guns.

Putin mentioned that Russia was simply copying the U.S., who keeps its own nuclear bombs in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

Putin said in an interview on state television that aired Saturday night, “We are copying what other countries have been doing for decades – stationing rockets in our ally’s country, preparing launch sites and teaching people how to use them.” He added, “We are going to do the same thing.”

Russia has been keeping nuclear weapons which are called “tactical nuclear weapons” in special places. Sending part of these weapons to a different place close to where Russia already has aircrafts and missiles located – this is like upping the level in the fight between Russia and Ukraine.

Some people in Russia who believe that the country should take tough action have suggested that if they put their tactical nuclear weapons near their other weapons, it can show the West how ready they will be to use them.

The U.S. said it wants to be aware of the effects that Putin’s announcement will have on them. They haven’t seen anything that would make them change their nuclear defences and they are still committed to protecting NATO allies.

Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine once had nuclear weapons owned by the Soviet Union, but gave them to Russia following the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. Putin said Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko has asked for nuclear weapons again, likely as a way of protecting themselves from NATO. Belarus borders three NATO countries – Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – and on February 24 2022, Russia sends troops to nearby Ukraine using Belarus as a place to launch their attack from.

Putin said that Russia updated some airplanes in Belarus so that they could hold nuclear weapons. He added that 10 of those planes were ready to use. Also, he mentioned that missiles called Iskander which Russia gave to Belarus last year can also be used to launch nuclear weapons.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, an opposition leader who is not living in Belarus right now, said that having tactical nuclear weapons in the country makes it really dangerous. She said on Twitter in English that Europe will only be safe once the dictator running Belarus is gone and sent to court for doing bad things like hurting Belarus and Ukraine.

The international community has been critical of Lukashenko’s decision to support the war and have placed sanctions on him. However, he is still backing Russia who have provided his economy with money, energy, and loans all in order to maintain the Soviet-style government control. Furthermore, Putin had initially objected to Britain sending Ukraine ammunition that was made with depleted uranium; even going as far as lying about it containing nuclear components.

Putin said that the use of weapons in Ukraine may leave a radioactive trace and contaminate the land. He also said that this could harm both people living there and the environment too. Luckily though, he added that Russia has not used similar kinds of ammunition yet even though they have lots in stock.

Depleted uranium is a type of material made from processing uranium. It’s used in weapons, which give off low levels of radiation even though they can’t make nuclear reactions happen. The U.N. warns us about the danger of radiation exposure from these weapons.

The US created these sorts of weapons for use during the Cold War – meant to destroy Soviet tanks, including the T-72 tanks that Ukraine currently uses in their attempt to break the situation in the east.

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