Russia must cancel its dangerous plan to station nuclear weapons in Belarus – POLITICO

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is the head of the United Transitional Cabinet and leader of the democratic forces of Belarus. Daniel Högsta is acting executive director of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN.

Announced in late May by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s plan to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus is a dangerous escalation of its nuclear policy.

Putin’s nuclear bluster began last February, when Russia threatened to use nuclear weapons against anyone interfering with its invasion of Ukraine. And since its announcement, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had started training Belarusian pilots in the use of nuclear weapons, while Russia has also supplied Minsk with the Iskander-nuclear-capable tactical missile system. M, which has already been put into combat service. .

However, if implemented, this plan to deploy nuclear bombs and involve Belarusian crews would undermine the country’s international commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), as well as the Memorandum of Budapest of 1994.

It would also be a gross violation of Belarusian sovereignty – evidenced by Putin’s choice to make the announcement on March 25, the day marking the country’s initial declaration of independence in 1918.

Belarusians cannot perceive Russia’s growing permanent military presence as anything other than the infrastructure of a belligerent state that could be used to take over their country – the same way it was in Crimea. in 2014. And since Russia used the territory of Belarus to invade Ukraine – with the support of the regime of Alexander Lukashenko – there have been around 10,000 Russian soldiers permanently stationed in the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin | Sergei Bobylev/AFP via Getty Images

The deployment of nuclear weapons would greatly expand that presence – entirely against the will of the Belarusian people.

So far, Putin has justified what he is doing by saying that the United States has been deploying nuclear weapons in European NATO countries for decades. But that does not justify his actions.

The deployment in Belarus would be the first time a nuclear state has deployed nuclear weapons abroad since the adoption of the NPT, and such a reckless act could tear the global non-proliferation regime to shreds, casting doubt among non-NPT countries. regarding the credibility of the assurances given by nuclear-capable States.

The stationing of nuclear weapons in other countries also increases the risk that they will be used because it complicates decision-making, while increasing the risk of miscalculations, miscommunication and potentially catastrophic accidents. And with nuclear tensions heightened due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that risk is dangerously heightened.

The detonation of even so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons, most of which are at least as powerful as the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, killing 140,000 people, would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences, and there is no response mechanism humanitarian organization in the world that could deal with the consequences of a nuclear explosion. There is also a high risk of radioactive fallout affecting Belarus – and much worse than the contamination the Belarusian people suffered during the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

It is often forgotten that Belarus was exposed to the highest levels of contamination from Chernobyl, and that this had serious repercussions on the health of its population. Children have been particularly affected, with thyroid cancer rates rising from one in a million cases before the accident to 100 in a million in the space of a decade in the worst affected region of Gomel, the second largest city in the country.

The threat to ordinary Belarusians would also increase, because in the event of a nuclear conflict involving Russia, the presence of Russian nuclear weapons in the country would make it a target for other nuclear-weapon states. This makes Belarusians hostage to the decisions of Russia – a state that has firmly taken the path of confrontation with the United States and NATO, and violated fundamental principles of international law.

Meanwhile, all available evidence shows that the Belarusian public is against welcoming Russian nuclear weapons. A poll conducted in Belarus just before Putin’s announcement showed that 74% oppose nuclear weapons on the country’s soil.

So as the leaders of the G7 countries gather in Hiroshima, where nuclear disarmament and proliferation will be high on the agenda, we urge them – and the rest of the international community – to come together to help prevent Russia and the Minsk regime from carrying out this dangerous plan.

We support the desire of the Belarusian people to maintain the status of a country free of nuclear weapons, which was established by the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Belarus of 1990, as well as by the country’s constitution of 1994. But the best One way to formalize this is for the country to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, formally – and ultimately – banning all nuclear weapons-related activity.


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