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Does nuclear arming lead to a limitation of the sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus?

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The first nuclear warheads have already been moved and are in Belarus, Vladimir Putin said on June 16. The Russian president first announced Russia's plans to deploy its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus in March 2023. Alexander Lukashenko did not seem to have to be persuaded to do this: he insisted that he himself "long ago asked Putin about this" and repeatedly reiterated that withdrawing nuclear weapons from the country was a mistake.

Western politicians reacted to the possible relocation of nuclear weapons in a nuclear-weapon-free country with restrained statements. Meanwhile, Belarusian democratic forces are calling for "tough action". Otherwise, in their view, the move "will lead to the complete loss of political subjectness of Belarus. Why?

Majority of Belarusian Population Doesn't Support Nuclear Weapons in Belarus

Nuclear arms "inherited" from the USSR started to be withdrawn from Belarus about 30 years ago. In November 1996 the last nuclear charges left the territory of the country. Almost 27 years later, if we believe the president of the Russian Federation, they returned to Belarus. Moreover, the majority of the Belarusian population, including staunch Lukashenko supporters, do not support the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus.

Lukashenko and Putin
Lukashenko and Putin Source:

Alexander Lukashenko himself gave an interview to the TV channel "Russia 1" and looked extremely pleased with the fact that nuclear weapons are returning to Belarus. According to Lukashenko, they will have a deterrent function. Despite the fact that Russia will control it, the Belarusian politician is confident that he will be able to control it "with a phone call." "Look, if a war breaks out, will I look around? No. I picked up the phone - wherever he (Putin) is. He called - I picked up the phone, any time. Even right now. So, well, what's the problem of coordinating some kind of strike there?" - Lukashenko stated.

"Control over the sovereignty of Belarus."

"I've said it many times: it's completely irresponsible," was how U.S. President Joe Biden commented the same day, June 16, on Putin's statement about moving Russian nuclear weapons to Belarus.

According to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the president's administration is "closely monitoring" the situation in Belarus and Russia, but at this point sees no reason to change the nuclear strategy. According to U.S. officials, there are no signs that Russia is preparing to use nuclear weapons.

"As for Belarus itself, this is another example of Lukashenko making an irresponsible, provocative choice, ceding control over the sovereignty of Belarus against the will of the Belarusian people," said Blinken.

In his turn, the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the Alliance "is taking seriously Russia's announcement of the nuclear weapons deployment in Belarus. According to him, NATO "saw preparations for its deployment."

"It's not possible to build such a storage facility in a couple of months."

Pavel Podvig, a researcher at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (Geneva) doubts that Russian nuclear weapons could have been moved to Belarus so quickly. He explains that it is not enough to store nuclear warheads "just walls or a bunker" - special conditions are required: "An adequate storage facility has to be built. It's quite a complex engineering structure with systems to control access to it, defense, not to mention the creation of climatic conditions. I am convinced that such a storage facility cannot be built in a couple of months.

According to the expert there are about 30 depositories of this kind for nuclear weapons on the territory of Russia. The Twelfth Main Directorate of the Defense Ministry controls them. Podvig is sure that this function will not be delegated to other units. "I am sure that at the institutional level, at the level of this administration there will be strong resistance to moving the warheads anywhere from Russia to another place. Of course, one cannot completely rule out such a scenario: this is a military structure-it can simply be ordered to do so. Just to give Lukashenko the opportunity to make any statements, there is no need to actually use the ammunition in Belarus," says the expert.

Belarus is "chained by steel chains to the Russian Federation.

Pavel Latushka meeting of the Coordinating Council 2020
Pavel Latushka Photo:

The Belarusian democracy movement draws attention to other aspects of what happened. "Nobody defended the sovereignty - not even verbally," says Pavel Latushka, head of the National Anti-Crisis Management (NAM) and member of the United Transitional Cabinet. In his opinion, "a terrible thing" happened on June 16: "They actually concreted us, chained us to the Russian Federation with steel chains. Latushko is sure: even if the Russian nuclear weapons have not been moved onto the territory of Belarus yet, it will happen soon anyway.

At the same time, the democratic forces of Belarus differ in their evaluations from politicians from the EU and the US, who consider that there is no increase of the threat, Latushko says. "Allegedly, it doesn't matter where the nuclear weapons are located: in Kaliningrad region, on the territory of Russia or in Belarus. But we perceive this situation from the point of view of the fact that actually on Friday it was announced that the Republic of Belarus had lost its sovereignty. In addition, after the placement of nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus, Lukashenko has lost his subjects. He will never again allow himself to say what would be contrary to the interests of the Kremlin.

How the EU and the U.S. act towards Belarus

According to Pavel Latushko, the EU and the U.S. still have no strategy on how to act against Belarus. "The only country that has a strategy towards our country is Russia. The Union State is a tool for implementing this strategy," admits the Belarusian opposition politician.

Pavel Latushka
Pavel Latushka Photo: NAM-media

In his opinion, restrained statements on the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus are not enough: "There must be a very tough public position that Lukashenko is not the leader of the country. Western partners must immediately hold consultations about the fulfillment of the obligations they undertook to the Belarusian people within the framework of the Budapest Memorandum. But no one even tries to initiate consultations on this issue. In addition, it is necessary to continue imposing tough sanctions against Lukashenko's regime.

What does Pavel Latushka himself plan to do in connection with the announced deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus? "I will work out a strategy from the point of view of both the European Union and our American partners. A very clear, productive strategy. How to restore our country's subjectness, independence and sovereignty? We are now talking about the existence of the state of the Republic of Belarus. We must clearly understand that if we cannot oppose these plans now, tomorrow there will be a formalized in terms of legal law annexation, absorption of Belarus into the Russian Federation.


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