Nuclear weapons in Belarus: a threat to Europe?
Moscow and Minsk agreed on Thursday that nuclear weapons over which Russia retains control are to be stationed in Belarus. According to Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenka the transfer has already begun. Commentators take different views of how much of a threat the move poses.
A throwback to the Cuban missile crisis
A taboo is being broken, laments La Repubblica:
“The warheads remain under Moscow's control and can be used by Lukashenka's military: the same procedure - as Vladimir Putin unsurprisingly pointed out - as with the US warheads in European Nato states, including Italy. With one major difference: after the end of the Cold War, these arsenals were dismantled and partially returned to the US. Russia, on the other hand, is now distributing them outside its borders, breaking a taboo respected by all powers: the only precedent is that which led to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.”
Nothing has changed militarily
Putin's is mainly trying to foment fear, the Berliner Morgenpost suspects:
“Precisely this fear is Putin's strongest weapon, because his army is not making the slightest progress in Ukraine. If the West sticks to its arms deliveries, Russia will face further defeats. At the same time, all experts agree that using nuclear weapons in Ukraine does not make any sense militarily. What would a nuclear bomb achieve in Bakhmut or anywhere else on the front? Russia's own soldiers would be just as much a target as the enemy. No, in fact stationing nuclear weapons in Belarus does not change the level of threat in the slightest. If Putin wanted to use nuclear weapons, he could have done so long ago.”
A growing but not imminent threat
Nato must be vigilant, Gazeta Wyborcza urges:
“Putin's decision in no way means that we are closer to a nuclear war. A depot to which the Russians move a certain number of warheads and tactical bombs from another base makes little difference strategically. But the very fact that it is being built in close proximity to Nato's eastern border while Russia is stationing its surface-to-surface missiles there poses a threat to the Alliance.”
Belarus facing annexation?
Putin could be preparing to annex Belarus to mask his failure in Ukraine, writes political analyst Abbas Galliamov in a Telegram post republished by Echo:
“Having failed to defeat Ukraine, Putin could be trying to satisfy his increasingly frustrated supporter base by securing a much-needed trophy elsewhere - in Minsk. For that, Russia would have to annex Belarus. He could then say: we've secured the Donbass as much as possible and now we're strengthening our geopolitical position by pushing our border 650 kilometres to the west. ... And the Kremlin's toadies would once again have a reason to trumpet a 'brilliant manoeuvre' by the Russian president.”