NATO denounces Putin’s nuclear rhetoric
NATO has criticised Vladimir Putin for what it called his “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric, a day after the Russian president said he would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Putin announced the move on Saturday and likened it to the U.S. stationing its weapons in Europe while insisting that Russia would not violate its nuclear non-proliferation promises.
NATO said the Russian president’s non-proliferation pledge and his description of U.S. weapons deployment overseas were way off the mark.
“Russia’s reference to NATO’s nuclear sharing is totally misleading. NATO allies act with full respect of their international commitments,” a NATO spokesperson said in emailed comments to Reuters on Sunday.
“Russia has consistently broken its arms control commitments, most recently suspending its participation in the New START Treaty,” the spokesperson said.
New START caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia can deploy, and the deployment of land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.
Although Putin’s move was not unexpected, it is one of Russia’s most pronounced nuclear signals since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine 13 months ago, and Ukraine called for a meeting of the UN Security Council in response.
A top security adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Oleksiy Danilov, said Russia’s plan would also destabilise Belarus, which he said had been taken “hostage” by Moscow.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry called for an extraordinary meeting of the U.N. Security Council after Putin’s announcement, and it asked the international community to “take decisive measures” to prevent Russia’s use of nuclear weapons.
“Russia once again confirms its chronic inability to be a responsible steward of nuclear weapons as a means of deterrence and prevention of war, not as a tool of threats and intimidation.”
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Washington appeared to see no change in the potential for Moscow to use nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine, and it and NATO said the news would not affect their own nuclear position.
“We have not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture that would lead us to adjust our own,” the NATO spokesperson wrote.
But the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons called Putin’s announcement an extremely dangerous escalation.
“In the context of the war in Ukraine, the likelihood of miscalculation or misinterpretation is extremely high. Sharing nuclear weapons makes the situation much worse and risks catastrophic humanitarian consequences,” it said on Twitter.
Tactical nuclear weapons refer to those used for specific gains on a battlefield rather than those with the capacity to wipe out cities. It is unclear how many such weapons Russia has given it is an area still shrouded in Cold War secrecy.