Ukraine on Sunday called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to oppose Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to place tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry condemned Putin’s plot in a statement, saying it “expects effective action to counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail by the UK, China, the US and France.”
“The world must be united against someone who endangers the future of human civilization,” the statement said.
In a saber-rattling interview on state TV Saturday, Putin said the move to station the weapons in Belarus was meant as a warning to the West after Great Britain’s decision last week to send armor-piercing rounds filled with depleted uranium to Ukrainian forces.
Russia would keep control over the weapons, Putin said. Storage facilities would be ready by July 1.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said the maneuver would undermine nuclear nonproliferation treaties. Putin has denied this.
A White House spokesman said the Biden administration was closely monitoring the issue, noting the US hadn’t seen evidence that Putin had moved the weapons or that he planned to use them against Ukrainians.
“We’ve seen nothing that would cause us to change our own strategic deterrent posture,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
Putin claimed he wasn’t doing anything the US hadn’t done for decades — Washington has nuclear weapons in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey.
“We are doing what they have been doing for decades, stationing them in certain allied countries, preparing the launch platforms and training their crews,” he said.
Oana Lungescu, NATO’s spokesperson, dismissed the Russian strongman’s statement as “totally misleading.”
“NATO allies act with full respect of their international commitments,” Lungescu said in a tweet. “Russia has consistently broken its arms control commitments.”
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said Putin’s tactical nuke plan is part of an information campaign designed to heighten the West’s fears of nuclear escalation, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But that risk remains extremely low.
“Russia has long fielded nuclear-capable weapons able to strike any target that tactical nuclear weapons based in Belarus could hit,” the institute wrote. “Putin is a risk-averse actor who repeatedly threatens to use nuclear weapons without any intention of following through.”
The Russian despot said Saturday that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has long requested the weapons.
Lukashenko hasn’t publicly commented on the announcement.
Belarus remains a close ally of Moscow’s, and the country of more than 9 million has functioned as a springboard for many of its larger neighbor’s attacks on Ukraine.
Putin said that Russia modernized Belarus’ military aircraft squadrons last year, leaving about 10 planes capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
An explosion that wounded three people in Russia on Sunday further raised tensions, with Moscow blaming a Ukrainian drone for the blast.
With Post wires
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