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Why does Russia want tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus?

  • Published
    29th Mar, 2023

Context:

  • Russian President has announcement that he intends to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus appears to be another attempt to raise the stakes in the conflict in Ukraine.

Strategic weapons vs. Tactical nuclear weapons:

  • Short range weapon to destroy enemy-Tactical nuclear weapons are relatively short range and a much lower yield than nuclear warheads fitted to long-range strategic missiles that are intended to destroy enemy troops and weapons on the battlefield.
  • Not subject to arms control agreement- Unlike strategic weapons, which have been subject to arms control agreements between Moscow and Washington, tactical weapons never have been limited by any such pacts.
  • Stored at a tightly guarded storage- While strategic nuclear weapons are fitted to land- or submarine-based intercontinental ballistic missiles that are constantly ready for launch, tactical nuclear weapons are stored at a few tightly guarded storage facilities in Russia, and it takes time to deliver them to combat units.

Russia’s Plan:

  • Provide training- Russia already has helped upgrade 10 Belarusian aircraft to allow them to carry nuclear weapons and their crews will start training to use them.
  • Construction of storage facilities-Russia has given Belarus the Iskander short-range missile systems that can be fitted with conventional or nuclear warheads. Russia will help in construction of storage facilities for nuclear weapons in Belarus.
  • Retain control over nuclear weapons-Russia will retain control over any nuclear weapons deployed to Belarus, just like the U.S. controls its tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of its NATO allies.
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