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Putin announces deal to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko shake hands during a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia February 18, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Russia is set to deploy its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, expanding its scope of strategic influence, and increasing its deterrence power in face of the US-led NATO's exceeding military support for Ukraine.

Speaking to the state broadcaster Russia 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a new agreement with its neighboring ally, saying that Russia would build a special storage facility for its tactical weapons in Belarus, the construction of which would end by the beginning of July.

Putin also said that the upcoming deployment would not breach the non-proliferation agreements, noting that the US had its nuclear weapons stationed in Europe for decades.

"There is nothing unusual here, either: firstly, the United States has been doing this for decades. They have long deployed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allied countries," Putin said

"We agreed that we will do the same - without violating our obligations, I emphasize, without violating our international obligations on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons," he added.

Moscow would not be transferring control of its arms to Minsk, he added.

The decision comes amid rising tensions between Moscow and Washington, with Russia attempting to send a strong warning to Western powers over their continuous military support for Ukraine, which according to Russia is fanning the flames of war.

Putin had announced last month that it would suspend its membership in New START, the last remaining arms control treaty between the world’s two main nuclear powers, Russia and the US.

Moscow has also stationed 10 aircraft in Belarus, which are capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons, Putin said.

According to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, about 100 US nuclear warheads are stored in Europe across six bases in five countries: Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel airbase in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi airbases in Italy, Volkel airbase in the Netherlands, and İncirlik in Turkey.

Putin did not specify when the weapons would be transferred to Belarus.

It would be the first time since the mid-1990s that Moscow will have based nuclear arms outside the country.

Belarus, Russia's western neighbor, stretched over Ukraine’s long northern border, shares a much cherished relationship with Russia, as it is one of Moscow's closest allies and its military campaign in Ukraine.

In February 2022, during the initial days of Ukraine-Russiawar, Belarus allowed Russian troops to enter Ukraine through the border it shares with Ukraine.

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