Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko threatened to use nuclear weapons, deployed to his country by Moscow, if “aggression is launched against us.” This comes as neighboring NATO states have deployed thousands of troops near the Belarusian border amid heightened tensions between Minsk and Warsaw.
During an interview with the state-run media outlet BelTA, Lukashenko appeared to admonish the Washington-led alliance of the massive risks escalation would entail. “If aggression against our country is launched from the side of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, we will immediately respond with everything we have… And the strike will be unacceptable,” he warned.
“NATO stands behind Poland, Lithuania, Latvia. We certainly understand that the forces are incomparable. But we will deliver an unacceptable strike against them and they will receive unacceptable harm, damage. It is what our security concept is based on.”
Lukashenko continues, “We didn’t bring nuclear weapons here in order to scare someone,” he explained. “Yes, nuclear weapons represent a strong deterring factor. But these are tactical nuclear weapons, not strategic ones. This is why we will use them immediately once aggression is launched against us.”
Belarus is a small country, Lukashenko said, that can be “captured within a month.” That is why “[Minsk] will not tary, wait, and rest. We will use the entire arsenal of our weapons for deterrence.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has made clear if Belarus is attacked it will be regarded – and responded to accordingly – as an aggression against the Russian Federation.
Earlier this year, Putin deployed tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus following London’s decision to provide Kiev with Challenger 2 tanks armed with depleted uranium munitions, which Russia views the same as a “dirty bomb.” Depleted uranium is radioactive and linked to cancer as well as birth defects.
Moscow has assisted Minsk in modernizing its aircraft to carry the weapons and has provided short-range Iskander missiles which can fit such warheads as well. In April, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the completion of a training course which has enabled the crews manning the Belarusian Air Force’s Su-25 ground attack jets to use tactical nuclear bombs.
Tensions have soared this month as the Belarusian military began carrying out drills near its border with Poland and Lithuania. An estimated 4,000 Wagner mercenary troops are now in Belarus, with some joining these exercises. These Wagner forces traveled to the country after Yevgeny Prigozhin, the group’s leader, carried out a short-lived mutiny in Russia against the defense establishment. Warsaw claims these mercenaries were sent “to NATO’s eastern flank to destabilize it.”
Russian forces launched attacks from positions in Belarus during the invasion of Ukraine last year. Last week, the US Treasury announced it was expanding sanctions on Belarus over Minsk’s “complicity” with Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.