Belarus announces its readiness to host Russia's strategic nuclear weapons, saying such a move would show the two nations' readiness to defend their "sovereignty and independence."
"I and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin can decide and deploy strategic nuclear weapons here, if need be," Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told the country's lawmakers on Friday.
"We will stop at nothing to protect our nations, our states, our people," the Belarusian leader said.
The move would increase both Russia and Belarus' deterrence capability in the face of the United States and its allies, he added.
Lukashenko hoped that such deployment would "sober up all the hawks across the pond for a long time," referring to American officials.
On Sunday, Putin said Russia was set to deploy its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, expanding the country's scope of strategic influence, and increasing its deterrence power in face of the United States-led military alliance of NATO's exceeding military support for Ukraine.
The Russian head of state, who was speaking to the state broadcaster Russia 1, 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 had its nuclear weapons stationed in Europe for decades. "There is nothing unusual here, either..., 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.
Lukashenko also said he had already ordered the Belarusian military to restore the facilities used to store the Topol intercontinental ballistic missiles and served as their potential launch sites during the Soviet era, in an apparent move to prepare his country to host the Russian nukes.
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