The real reason why Moscow is placing nuclear weapons in Belarus.

Erkki Koort
Although the troops of the Russian Federation are still currently in Belarus, the goal of deploying a tactical nuclear weapon there is to prevent the country from sliding towards the West in the future. In the picture, joint exercises of the forces of Russia and Belarus.
Although the troops of the Russian Federation are still currently in Belarus, the goal of deploying a tactical nuclear weapon there is to prevent the country from sliding towards the West in the future. In the picture, joint exercises of the forces of Russia and Belarus. Photo: Vadim Savitskiy / AP / Scanpix
  • The nuclear weapons further ties Minsk to Russia.
  • This move has no military significance.
  • There is also no proof that nuclear weapons actually are in Belarus.

The Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus concluded an agreement on the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus. Why was it announced and what is the purpose of the placement, writes Postimees and Estonian Internal Security Academy security expert Erkki Koort.

Moscow and Minsk signed an agreement to place nuclear weapons in Belarus. There has been a lot of furors about it, and the dictators of both countries have repeatedly made statements on this topic. However, there are background and loose ends that need to be explained. Why was the decision made to deploy nuclear weapons? Why now? Why do dictators talk about it so much? Are nuclear weapons actually reaching in Belarus?

Why deploy?

On March 25, 2023, Russian ruler Vladimir Putin announced his intention to deploy a tactical nuclear weapon to Belarus. Moscow is doing this at the request of the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, and the deployment deadline is the beginning of July. Completion of the warehouses should have a deadline of July 1.

Doubts about the nuclear weapon were still in the air from time to time, but now it was finally announced publicly. Nothing prevented the two dictators from secretly placing them there, but then one of the main goals - intimidation - would not have been achieved. Since Russia no longer has anything stronger to put on the battlefield, it will be shaken again with a nuclear weapon, and the nomenclature from the Soviet era remembers this instrument well.

Just like Ukraine, Belarus gave up nuclear weapons after the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s. Despite having nuclear weapons, even then they had no control over the launch codes. They were controlled by Moscow then and still are.

With all eyes on the Ukrainian counter-invasion, Dictator Lukashenko talks about how he will not hesitate to use weapons to defend Belarus, and any intruder will receive an immediate response. Footage of him bragging that he would call Putin in the event of an invasion, who would immediately attack with weapons, has surfaced several times. In fact, his bragging doesn't matter because they are not meant for war and have been put there for the post-Lukashenko era.

There has been much speculation as to the military aspects of the placement of these weapons. Did the placement of the weapons change the picture in any way? No, it didn't. Is Kiev more afraid of a nuclear strike from Belarus than from Russia? There is no difference. Does NATO care where they are launched from? No, not really. Besides, the world's seas have their share of submarines carrying nuclear weapons, and Russia has nuclear weapons even in Königsberg.

Why now?

7-8 has been announced as the date of deployment of nuclear weapons. July, which is a week before the NATO summit in neighboring Lithuania. Even if the planned weapons do not arrive by then, the message has been given and it will certainly have an impact on those countries whose positions on Russia are not so clear.

The second reason, however, is non-military and preventive. Firstly, this decision must tie Belarus even more strongly to Russia. Deploying nuclear weapons certainly is because it is also «legitimate to protect» these weapons. Not that Moscow does not apply this principle to its forces today, but nuclear weapons are still a degree stronger. Secondly, deter NATO and the European Union, but not in a military sense.

If there should be unrest in Belarus again, Russia has something to prevent the secession of Belarus. There have been very large anti-Lukashenko riots in Belarus, the suppression of which the West «expressed concern». This move allows Moscow to intervene much more even after Lukashenko. A tactical nuclear weapon must ensure that the collective West «pulls back several degrees» in support of democratic aspirations. No one wants instability in a country that has nuclear weapons and does not even belong to that country. Russia wants to preserve its «rights» to Belarus after Lukashenko.

In fact, we do not know if any nuclear weapons will be deployed in Belarus at all. The US has expressed concern, however, has consistently stated that there does not appear to be any unusual activity with nuclear weapons. The NATO Secretary General also announced that he does not consider it necessary to revise the defense plans, because the situation has not changed significantly.

All in all, it is a rhetorical move aimed at dragging another occupation net over Belarus. The announcement of the placement of a tactical nuclear weapon is aimed at influencing the West and controlling Belarus after Lukashenko. Its activities have no military effect.