Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has again announced his country stands ready to host nuclear weapons provided by Russia on its territory. "We are ready for this on the territory of Belarus," Lukashenko told Russia's RIA news agency in an interview published Tuesday.
Lukashenko held it out as the necessary response in the scenario where NATO would deploy nuclear systems to neighboring Poland. The Belarusian president said he will soon propose this plan to Putin.
In the interview he had been asked to respond to recent comments of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who provoked anger out of Moscow by suggesting the Western military alliance could eventually see its nukes deployed to Eastern European partners.
According to state-run BelTA, the exchange went as follows:
The Belarusian head of state was asked about a recent statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg regarding the possible deployment of nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe.
Aleksandr Lukashenko responded by saying: "Yes. Then I will suggest that Putin should return nuclear weapons to Belarus."
“What nuclear weapons?” Dmitry Kiselyov asked Aleksandr Lukashenko to clarify.
The head of state said: "We will agree on what kind. The nuclear weapons that will be most effective in such an engagement. I said for a reason that we in Belarus' territory are ready for it. As a thoughtful landlord I haven't destroyed anything [of the USSR infrastructure for nuclear weapons], all the depots remain in place."
The ending reference to "all the [USSR] depots" remaining in place and ready to go is certainly interesting related to what many pundits have dubbed the 'new Cold War', given also the renewed soaring tensions linked to everything from the emerging Ukraine crisis 2.0, to the Poland-Belarus migrant border standoff, to the US and Russia now tit-for-tat booting each other's diplomats.
If the United States moves its nuclear weapons to Poland, Lukashenko will ask Putin to return nuclear weapons to Belarus.— Jeanne de Montmorency aka DinamiteGirl (@dinamite_girl) November 30, 2021
Moreover, the entire infrastructure for nuclear weapons in Belarus has been preserved.
"As a diligent owner, I have not destroyed anything," Lukashenko said https://t.co/EiP93uQbij
It was in the midst of the migrant border standoff with Poland earlier this month, for which the EU slapped more sanctions on the Belarusian government, that Lukashenko first raised the nuclear hosting issue.
Reuters reported in mid-November that he "wants Russian nuclear-capable Iskander missile systems to deploy in the south and west of the country, he said in an interview with a Russian defense magazine..."
While Russia and Belarus remain part of a closely cooperative "union state" - such an action as Russia transferring such weaponry to Belarus would without doubt trigger a crisis on par with the 2014 Crimean crisis (or beyond), and potentially leading to war with NATO. And given Putin recently had to distance himself from Lukashenko's threats to shut off Russian energy supplies running through Belarus, it's highly unlikely the Kremlin would ever sign off on stationing nukes there. Of course that could all change depending on how close NATO in the future places its own nuclear arsenal.