Putin Lukashenko
© SPUTNIK/ReutersFILE PHOTO: Russian president Vladimir Putin with Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow in February. Minsk and Moscow "will stop at nothing" to protect their people, Alexander Lukashenko has said .
Russia has reached an agreement with Belarus to station tactical nuclear weapons on its smaller neighbour's territory, so bringing some of its arsenal closer to the rest of Europe, Vladimir Putin has said.

The Russian president made the announcement on state television, arguing that it would not breach non-proliferation agreements and that it would match similar arrangements that the US has with several of its European allies.

Putin said he was acting after negotiations with Belarus's president, Alexander Lukashenko, who he said had "long raised the question" of a nuclear deployment on his country's territory.

"There is nothing unusual here either: firstly, the United States has been doing this for decades," Putin said. "They have long deployed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allied countries."

It is estimated by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation that there are about 100 American nuclear weapons - airborne gravity bombs - stored in Europe across six bases in five countries, although they are retained in the control of the US.

"We agreed that we will do the same - without violating our obligations, I emphasise, without violating our international obligations on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons," the Russian president added.

Putin has repeatedly made nuclear threats or escalated nuclear rhetoric after the full invasion of Ukraine, but this is the first time he has announced a plan to station nuclear weapons in another country.

Comment: Nonsense - but it's to be expected in an establishment propaganda rag like The Guardian - it's the US that has a first strike policy whereas Russia has repeatedly said it would only ever deploy them in defense.

Wikipedia tells us:
On December 7, 2022, president Putin stated that Russia will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, neither will "it be the second" to do so.[38][39]

Moscow has 5,977 nuclear warheads in its inventory, according to the Federation of American Scientists, and has long had the capability to strike a target anywhere in the world. The US has slightly fewer, at 5,428.

The US Department of Defense said on Saturday that there were no indications that Russia was preparing to use nuclear weapons after Moscow's announcement.

"We have seen reports of Russia's announcement and will continue to monitor this situation," the department's press office said. "We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture, nor any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon. We remain committed to the collective defence of the Nato alliance."

Belarus is one of Russia's few remaining friends.

Comment: Except for its partnerships in BRICS, the SCO, OPEC, and so on...

Lukashenko allowed the Kremlin to invade Ukraine from its territory at the beginning of the war, which saw Moscow make a failed attempt to capture Kyiv.

Comment: It didn't fail, it was a military tactic to force Ukraine's military to withdraw from other regions.

But it has not joined in the war itself, and another attack via the country is still not thought likely.

However, Putin's televised remarks came only a few days after the Kremlin signed up to a joint declaration with China agreeing to restrict future nuclear weapons deployments abroad, after the visit of Beijing's president, Xi Jinping, to the country.

Russia will have completed the construction of a storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus by 1 July, Putin said, but no timetable was given for when the bombs would physically move into the country.

Pavel Podvig, director of the Russian Nuclear Forces Project and one of the world's leading independent experts on Russia's nuclear arsenal, said it was not clear whether the storage site was already under construction.

If it was, Podvig tweeted, he hoped it would be located by independent specialists quickly using satellite imagery because "three months [to complete it by July] seems like a really tight schedule".

Russia has stationed 10 aircraft in Belarus capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons, Putin said, and equipped them appropriately. Aircrews would be trained from 3 April, the president added.

Putin also said that Russia had given Belarus Iskander missile systems that can be used to launch nuclear weapons, although it was unclear whether that reflected the type of bombs to be deployed.

The Russian leader also bizarrely claimed that Lukashenko had asked about nuclear weapons after a statement earlier this week by the UK that it would be supplying depleted uranium shells with its fleet of Challenger 2 tanks.

Comment: The UK is supplying Kiev's Nazi-aligned military with abominable weapons that even the US has said it is hesitant to use (these days, anyway; because the US used them in their wars on Iraq, and Serbia, and civilians still suffer the ill effects to this day).

Depleted uranium is a by-product of the enrichment process to make nuclear weapons or fuel, so as a result is less radioactive. Its military purpose is as a tough and penetrating metal for shells and, while its toxicity makes its use on the battlefield controversial, it is not in any sense a nuclear weapon.

US nuclear weapons are believed to be stored in six bases: Kleine Brogel in Belgium; Büchel airbase in Germany; Aviano and Ghedi airbases in Italy; Volkel airbase in the Netherlands; and İncirlik in Turkey.