President Alexander Lukashenko said Tuesday he won't hesitate to use Russian tactical nuclear weapons which are soon to be stationed on Belarusian soil if his country faces "an aggression".
"God forbid I have to make a decision to use those weapons today, but there would be no hesitation if we face an aggression," he said.
Just last week, Russia's President Putin told his Belarusian counterpart at a meeting Sochi that tactical nuclear weapons will be deployed in Belarus after hosting facilities are ready on July 7-8. Putin had unveiled plans to send nukes there in March. The weapons will be under Russian military control but hosted at Belarusian bases.
While Lukashenko is known for this kind of maximalist and jingoistic rhetoric, often in reaction to developments out of NATO concerning new weapons systems to Ukraine, the timing of these new willingness to "make a decision" remarks is notable.
The threat comes the same day The Wall Street Journal reported the White House is set to transfer depleted uranium shells to Ukraine for the first time since the Russian invasion began.
Internal administration debate over the controversial munitions has been ongoing for several months, but an admin official quoted in WSJ says at this point there are "no major obstacles" to sending it, which will be used to equip M1 Abrams tanks provided by Washington.
As we recounted earlier, when the UK previously announced its authorization for depleted uranium for Challenger 2 main battle tanks, that's when President Putin first said he would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Putin had justified the move toward nuclear escalation very specifically in response to London's decision at the time. But Washington has of course downplayed and rejected the association of depleted uranium shells with 'nuclear weapons'.
Regardless, as Lukashenko's comments show, rhetoric regarding potential nuclear escalation continues to soar, at a very dangerous moment the world is already 90 seconds to midnight.