BRUSSELS: The Nato alliance on Sunday condemned Russia’s announcement that it would deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus as “dangerous and irresponsible”.
But spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the western allies had not yet “seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture that would lead us to adjust our own.”
Ukraine has sought an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss Moscow’s plan, announced Saturday, to deploy tactical warheads to neighbouring Belarus.
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, with some of its troops crossing the border through its ally Belarus, and Kyiv sees the move as “nuclear blackmail”.
President Vladimir Putin counters by comparing the move to the United States basing some of its nuclear arsenal on the territory of its European allies. But Nato joined Germany in dismissing this analogy.
“Russia’s nuclear rhetoric is dangerous and irresponsible. Nato is vigilant, and we are closely monitoring the situation,” Lungescu said.
“Russia’s reference to Nato’s nuclear sharing is totally misleading. Nato allies act with full respect of their international commitments,” she said.
“Russia has consistently broken its arms control commitments, most recently suspending its participation in the New START Treaty,” she said.
Last month Putin said that Moscow would suspend participation in the New START treaty, the last nuclear arms control pact between Russia and the United States.
“Russia must return to compliance and act in good faith,” the Nato spokesman said. Putin has previously said nuclear tensions were “rising” globally but that Moscow would not deploy first.
Back in February 2022, Belarus allowed the Kremlin to launch its invasion of Ukraine from Belarusian territory.
Fears have since risen that Belarus may join its ally’s offensive, but dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a key Putin ally, said he would do so “only if attacked”.
On Sunday secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, Oleksiy Danilov wrote on Twitter that “the Kremlin took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”
He added that the move was “a step towards the internal destabilisation of the country”.
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak added that “(Putin) admits that he is afraid of losing and all he can do is scare” people.
The Russian leader said renewed discussions with Lukashenko on the issue were spurred by a British official’s suggestion depleted uranium weapons be sent to Ukraine.
Russia has “what it needs to answer” if the West supplied Ukraine with such ammunition, he added.
“Without exaggeration, we have hundreds of thousands of such shells. We have not used them yet.”