Belarus would be willing to use the nuclear weapons given by close ally Russia in the face of foreign “aggression,” President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday, as tensions rise around the country’s borders with NATO nations.
Minsk has played a key role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, with Moscow using Belarus as one of its launch pads for the invasion in early 2022, while joint Russia-Belarus military drills over the past year have fueled concerns Belarusian troops could join Russian forces in the conflict.
In June, Russian nuclear warheads were reportedly delivered to Belarus for “deterrence,” according to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In an interview with state news agency Belta, Lukashenko claimed Belarus would “never get involved in this war” unless Ukrainians crossed its border. But he added: “We will keep helping Russia, they are our ally.”
He also warned that if provoked — especially by neighboring NATO countries like Poland, Lithuania and Latvia — Belarus would “immediately respond with everything we have,” including nuclear weapons.
It’s not clear how much of Russia’s nuclear arsenal was transported to Belarus recently, and US and Western officials have not publicly confirmed that any weapons have been transferred — though senior officials from the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said they had “no reason to doubt” Putin’s claim.
During the interview, Lukashenko said if Belarus were to come under attack, “we will not tarry, wait, and the rest. We will use the entire arsenal of our weapons for deterrence.”
“We didn’t bring nuclear weapons here in order to scare someone,” he added. “Yes, nuclear weapons represent a strong deterring factor. But these are tactical nuclear weapons, not strategic ones. This is why we will use them immediately once aggression is launched against us.”
The senior DIA officials said in July they do not believe Lukashenko would have any control over the arsenal, which would most likely be entirely controlled by Russia.