Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia will soon deliver nuclear-capable missiles to Belarus. As Putin announced Saturday at a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Saint Petersburg, Russia will deliver the Iskander-M missile system to Belarus “in the coming months”, which could be equipped with nuclear warheads.
Lukashenko had already announced the planned purchase of Iskander missiles and S-400 air defense systems from Russia in May. Putin has now promised Lukashenko to help upgrade Belarusian warplanes so they can also transport nuclear weapons in the future.
At a meeting with Lukashenko in St. Petersburg, Putin said that the Belarusian army has several Sukhoi Su-25 fighters, which can be “improved” accordingly. Modernization should take place at aircraft factories in Russia, at the same time the training of personnel can begin.
Rearmament plans in the midst of the conflict in Ukraine are likely to lead to new tensions between Moscow and the West. Belarus borders Ukraine and several NATO countries, but is a close ally of Russia. Belarus has repeatedly provided diplomatic and logistical support to the Russian military offensive in Ukraine, and attacks on Ukraine have also been launched from Belarus.
Since the start of the military operation in late February, Putin has spoken publicly about nuclear weapons several times, which is seen as a warning to the West not to get involved in the Ukraine conflict. Unlike Russia, Belarus does not have nuclear weapons. After the fall of the Soviet Union, all nuclear weapons were withdrawn from Belarus.
Lukashenko told Putin in St Petersburg that he was concerned about the “aggressive” policies of neighboring Lithuania and Poland. Specifically, he named NATO flights near the Belarusian border equipped with nuclear weapons. He asked Putin to build a “symmetric response” to that. Without distinguishing between Belarus and Russia, the authoritarian Belarusian ruler said: “Minsk must be prepared for anything, even the use of dangerous weapons to defend our homeland from Brest to Vladivostok.” In particular, he also asked Putin that Belarusian planes be armed with nuclear weapons.