It is the chronicle of an announced rearmament. And not just any. In a video broadcast Thursday, May 25, on Telegram, while attending a regional summit in Moscow, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that “the transfer of nuclear charges [russes] To[vait] begin ” on its territory. Without further details or confirmation from the Kremlin. Just enough to fuel the fear of a nuclear escalation of the conflict in Ukraine a little more.
Since 1991 and the fall of the USSR, Moscow has never installed nuclear weapons outside its borders. But this is not the first time that the scenario of a deployment in Belarus of stocks of Russian tactical nuclear weapons, that is to say weapons which contain less powerful charges than the so-called nuclear weapons, has been raised. “strategic”. On March 25, the Russian president had already made the announcement on the occasion of the traditional television interview “Moscow, Kremlin, Putin”, then evoking the construction by July of a storage center for tactical nuclear weapons. in Belarus.
This week, the Russian Ministry of Defense merely announced that Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister, and Viktor Khrenine, his Belarusian counterpart, had signed “documents describing the process of storage of Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons in a special facility of the Republic of Belarus”. Without saying more about a possible transfer of nuclear warheads.
Put pressure on the United States
As Tiphaine de Champchesnel, specialist in nuclear arms control issues at the Institute for Strategic Research of the Military School, reminds us, the fact that Russia regularly raises the nuclear threat can be interpreted as a strategy of intimidation aimed at the actors who support Ukraine, while the counter-offensive promised by Kiev is presented as imminent.
“The installation of these capabilities on Belarusian territory, even without the nuclear warheads, can be understood in the light of the developments observed on the conventional ground. In case of difficulty, Russia can try to put pressure on Ukraine by waving the nuclear threat, says the researcher. Russia can also hope that this pressure will be reinforced by the interventions of other States, which would ask Ukraine not to go further to avoid nuclear escalation. »
Finally, it can try to create divisions within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), some members of which are immediate neighbors of Belarus and could be less ardent in their support for Ukraine.