Russia ally Belarus to permit use of nuclear weapons for first time in new military rulebook

Belarus has supported Russia throughout war in Ukraine in various ways, including hosting Putin’s invading forces prior to February 2022

Arpan Rai
Wednesday 17 January 2024 09:05 GMT
File: Lukashenko calls on supporters to defend Belarus

Russia ally Belarus has amended its military doctrine to permit the use of nuclear weapons for the first time, months after its decision to host Vladimir Putin’s nukes sent alarm bells ringing across Europe.

Belarus borders Poland, Latvia and Lithuania to its north and west, and the prospect of Russian tactical nuclear weapons being housed so close to Nato allies sparked an international furore late last year.

Defence minister Viktor Khrenin said at a national security council meeting on Tuesday that the change in military doctrine represented a “new chapter” for Belarus, which does not have its own nuclear weapons.

“We clearly communicate Belarus’s views on the use of tactical nuclear weapons stationed on our territory. A new chapter has appeared, where we clearly define our allied obligations to our allies,” he said.

Belarusian forces are not believed to have actively participated in Russia’s war against Ukraine, but the country has supported Moscow in various ways throughout the almost two-year conflict.

The Belarus border is just 140 miles from Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, and Russian troops stationed in Belarus invaded Ukraine from the north during the opening days of the war in February 2022.

In December, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko confirmed the shipment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons for deployment in his country was complete, marking the first such placement outside of Russia’s borders.

The shipments were completed back in October, Mr Lukashenko revealed at a meeting of a Moscow-led economic bloc in St Petersburg.

Russia has said it will maintain control over the nuclear weapons positioned in Belarus, which are intended for battlefield use, having short ranges and comparatively low yields.

Mr Lukashenko did not share further details at the time regarding the quantity of weapons sent or their specific deployment locations.

On Tuesday, Belarus’s security council secretary Alexander Volfovich claimed the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus was aimed at detering aggression from Poland, a Nato member.

“Unfortunately, statements by our neighbours, in particular Poland… forced us to strengthen” the military doctrine, he said.

The doctrine will now be taken to the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, a representative body that operates in Belarus in parallel with its rubber-stamp parliament.

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