The Guardian • Issue #2057



Hannah Middleton

Russia and Belarus have signed a deal to deploy Russian tactical nuclear missiles in Belarus.

“In the context of an extremely sharp escalation of threats on the western borders of Russia and Belarus, a decision was made to take countermeasures in the military-nuclear sphere,” Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

Moscow will retain control over the weapons and any decisions on their use, Shoigu said.

Russian President Putin said that by stationing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia will be doing what the United States has done for decades by putting its nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey.

“Over the last two and a half years, the Republic of Belarus has been subjected to unprecedented political, economic, and information pressure from the United States, the United Kingdom, and its NATO allies, as well as the member states of the European Union,” the Belarusian foreign minister said in a statement.

“In view of these circumstances, and the legitimate concerns and risks in the sphere of national security arising from them, Belarus is forced to respond by strengthening its own security and defence capabilities.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry responded to Western criticism by pointing out that Washington and its allies had ignored repeated Russian calls for the withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from Europe. The ministry reaffirmed Moscow’s right to take “the necessary additional steps to ensure security of Russia and its allies.”

This worrying development takes place in the context of the war in Ukraine, caused by US and NATO plans to use Ukraine as a foil to generate conflict intended to bring down Putin’s government and destroy Russian power.

In 2008 former US Ambassador to Russia (and current Director of the CIA) William Burns warned that NATO efforts to bring Ukraine into its ranks would precipitate Russian military intervention. NATO invited Ukraine to join in November 2008.

The US, EU, and NATO instigated a coup in Ukraine in February 2014 which removed the elected president, Victor Yanukovych, and replaced him with an ultra-nationalist government.

In April the new government declared war on the ethnic Russian population of the Donbas. This  triggered the Russian annexation of Crimea and the provision of military support by Russia to the Donbas.

Ukraine and its NATO allies then sued for peace, initiating negotiations that led to the adoption of the Minsk Agreement, which put in place a ceasefire in exchange for guarantees regarding Ukrainian sovereignty over the Donbas as well as relative autonomy for the ethnic Russians of the Donbas, protecting their language, religion, culture, and traditions.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and former French President Francois Hollande have admitted that the Minsk Accords were a sham intended to buy time to build up the Ukrainian military.

Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine on 24th February 2022 was not an unprovoked act of aggression, but an act of self defence.

Nuclear weapons pose unacceptable humanitarian consequences and the transfer of Russian tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus is a worrying development.

However, we should remember:

  • The US, not Russia, withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile and Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaties.
  • The US, not Russia, has frozen talks on the extension of the New Strategic Arms Treaty.
  • The US, not Russia, recently publicised a nuclear policy allowing for the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons in a non-nuclear situation.
  • The US, not Russia, has deployed a low-yield nuclear warhead (the W-76-2) on Trident submarine launched ballistic missiles, and conducted war games practicing launching this weapon where Russia was the named target.

We must call for all US nuclear weapons to be removed from NATO countries, Italy, Turkey, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and for the new missile bases in Romania and Poland to be closed, in return for Putin not putting nuclear weapons in Belarus.

The United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the only international treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons use and threat of use. It makes nuclear weapons illegal. PM Albanese should sign this treaty immediately.

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