A high-ranking Belarusian security official says the West has left his country with no other choice but to deploy Russian tactical nuclear weapons on its soil.
Belarus had returned its nuclear weapons to Russia following its independence from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s.
Speaking on Sunday, Alexander Volfovich, the state secretary of Belarus' Security Council, said the decision to send the nukes back to Russia made sense at that time because the United States had provided Belarus with "security guarantees" and had imposed no sanctions on the country.
"Today, [however] everything has been torn down. All the promises made [by the US] are gone forever," the Belta news agency quoted him as saying in a televised interview.
"The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus is, therefore, one of the steps of strategic deterrence," the security official explained.
He also warned the West not to test Belarus' strategic patience, saying, "If there remains any reason in the heads of Western politicians, of course, they will not cross this red line."
Volfovich added that any resort to using "even tactical nuclear weapons will lead to irreversible consequences."
It was in late March that the Russian president said his country was set to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus to expand its scope of strategic influence and increase its deterrence in the face of the US-led NATO's exceeding military support for Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin added that Russia will build a special storage facility for its tactical weapons in Belarus, the construction of which will end by the beginning of July.
Putin also said the upcoming deployment would not breach the nonproliferation agreements, noting that the US had its nuclear weapons stationed in Europe for decades.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, for his part, announced in early April that his country is ready 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 Putin can decide and deploy strategic nuclear weapons here, if need be," he told the country's lawmakers, adding, "We will stop at nothing to protect our nations, our states, [and] our people."
Lukashenko then hoped, in a clear reference to American officials, that such deployment would "sober up all the hawks across the pond for a long time."
A few days later, Russia's ambassador to Belarus said Moscow is bent on moving its tactical nuclear weapons close to the border with Belarus, placing them nearer than ever before to the threshold of NATO.
The weapons "will be moved to the western border of our union state and will increase the possibilities to ensure security," Boris Gryzlov told Belarusian state television, adding, "This will be done despite the noise in Europe and the United States."
The Russian ambassador, however, did not specify where the weapons will be stationed, but confirmed that a storage facility will be completed, as ordered by Putin, by July 1, and then moved to the west of Belarus.
The US and many other Western countries have already expressed concern about the possibility that Russia would send tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, with American President Joe Biden saying it was "worrisome."
Putin has dismissed the West's concerns in this regard, saying, "There is nothing unusual here ... the United States has been doing this for decades. They have long deployed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allied countries."