Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said his country would be ready to host “nuclear weapons” if threatened by the West.
Lukashenko also said Minsk could deploy “super nuclear weapons” if its “rivals and adversaries” take “senseless and unreasonable steps”.
Tensions between Russia – an ally of Belarus – and NATO have reached unprecedented levels over troop movements near Ukraine.
Lukashenko visited a nuclear weapons storage site in Osipovsky on Thursday as part of joint Russian-Belarusian military exercises.
“If necessary … we will deploy not only nuclear weapons but also super nuclear weapons – promising weapons – in order to defend our territory,” Lukashenko said, according to state media.
“If there were no threats from hostile countries towards Belarus, there would be no need for nuclear weapons here for a hundred years,” he added.
After the break-up of the former Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991, Belarus renounced the nuclear weapons deployed on its territory under American pressure.
The weapons were returned to Russia and the Belarusian Constitution then declared that the country would remain a “nuclear-free zone”.
But the country is expected to vote in a referendum later this month on a constitutional amendment proposed by President Lukashenko that could allow the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Lukashenko is also expected in Russia on Friday for talks with his counterpart and ally Vladimir Putin.