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West warns Putin against ‘dangerous’ nuclear rhetoric but downplays threat


The United States and its European allies warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday of what they called “dangerous” nuclear rhetoric after announcing plans to stockpile tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, a close ally. of Moscow which shares a border with northern Ukraine.

At the same time, Western powers said they saw no immediate danger or reason to alter their own strategic nuclear positions as a result of his remarks. NATO called his remarks, which he made on television on Saturday, “irresponsible”, but said it had seen no change in Russia’s nuclear posture “that would cause us to adjust the OUR”.

U.S. officials have also played down the move, with John Kirby, communications coordinator for the National Security Council, telling CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that there was no evidence that Putin had “fulfilled that commitment or moved nuclear weapons.”

“We haven’t seen anything that would cause us to change our own strategic deterrence posture,” he said.

On Saturday, Putin told Russian state television that Moscow would deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus later this year following a request from Minsk. He said the plan would not violate Russia’s nuclear non-proliferation agreements – and compared the US decision to station nuclear weapons in Europe.

In a statement issued on Sunday, NATO rejected this characterization as “totally misleading”.

Putin said: “We have agreed [with Belarus] that we will do the same. Without violating, I would like to emphasize, our international obligations regarding the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. On July 1, we will complete the construction of a special storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

Russia, he said, would help Minsk refurbish planes to carry the weapons and had already transferred several Iskander missile systems to Belarus.

Ukraine on Sunday accused Russia of holding Belarus “a nuclear hostage”. Moscow seeks to destabilize the country, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said on Twitter.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, the Kremlin has frequently turned to the nuclear saber in response to Western criticism or perceived aggression. Russian officials have threatened to launch nuclear strikes against Ukraine if it tries to retake the Crimean peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.

But Putin’s remarks on Saturday stood in stark contrast to his apparent vow last week to prevent nuclear war, during a three-day visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow. In a joint statement, Russia and China agreed that a nuclear war could never be won and reaffirmed their commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Xi and Putin present alliance but offer no path to peace in Ukraine

The statement even prompted Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, to say he thought the world was safer that way.

But on Sunday, Borrell criticized Putin’s plans to move nuclear weapons to Belarus, calling them an “irresponsible escalation and a threat to European security”.

“Belarus can still stop him, it’s their choice,” Borrell said on Twitter.

In another tweet, Belarusian opposition leader in exile Svitlana Tsikhanouskaya said the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons “directly violates the Constitution of Belarus” and “disrespects” the country’s sovereignty.

“Russia is acting as an occupying force, violating national security and putting Belarus on a collision course with its neighbors and the international community,” Tsikhanouskaya said. writing.

In the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Belarus signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Guarantees and other agreements that saw Minsk give up its nuclear weapons.

Russia’s nuclear weapons relocation project has also raised questions about bomb safety. Last month, anti-government supporters in Belarus claimed to have damaged a Russian surveillance plane parked at an airport in Minsk. The group said they used a drone.

In Germany, the Foreign Office said Putin’s announcement was “another attempt at nuclear intimidation by Russia,” while U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told CNN on the State of the Union that the Russian leader was “a dangerous man”. ”

According to Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Putin’s remarks were “too predictable” and a sign of weakness as Ukrainian forces stand against Russian troops on the battlefield.

“Making a statement about tactical nukes in Belarus, he admits he is afraid of losing and all he can do is scare with tactics,” Podolyak wrote. on Twitter.

A year of Russian war in Ukraine

Portraits from Ukraine: Every Ukrainian’s life has changed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion a year ago – in ways both big and small. They learned to survive and help each other in dire circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed apartment complexes and crumbling markets. Scroll through portraits of Ukrainians reflecting on a year of loss, resilience and fear.

Battle of Attrition: Over the past year, the war has evolved from a multi-pronged invasion that included kyiv in the north to an attrition conflict largely concentrated over a swath of territory to the east and south. Follow the 600 mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and see where the fighting has been concentrated.

One year of separate life: The invasion of Russia, coupled with Ukrainian martial law preventing men of military age from leaving the country, has forced millions of Ukrainian families to make agonizing decisions about how to balance safety, duty and love, once intertwined lives have become unrecognizable. This is what a train station full of farewells looked like last year.

Deepening global divides: President Biden has trumpeted the reinvigorated Western alliance forged during the war as a “global coalition,” but closer examination suggests the world is far from united on the issues raised by the war in Ukraine. Evidence abounds that the effort to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions have not stopped Russia, thanks to its oil and gas exports.

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