In response to perceived “aggression” from NATO allies at the border, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has issued a threat to employ nuclear weapons.
Lukashenko’s remarks were directed at Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, who have expressed their concerns against Belarus for giving shelter to the Wagner troops.
In an interview with state-run BelTA on Thursday (Aug 17), Lukashenko said, “If aggression against our country is launched from the side of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, we will immediately respond with everything we have,” he said, adding, “And the strike will be unacceptable.”
In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly sent nuclear warheads to its ally Belarus for “deterrence”.
It is unclear how much nuclear arsenal Russia has delivered to Minsk recently, but senior officials from the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) told CNN that they had “no reason to doubt” Putin’s claim.
Lukashenko said that they will not strike first unless provoked, adding, “We will not tarry, wait and the rest. We will use the entire arsenal of our weapons for deterrence,” he said, explaining that they are a small country that can be “captured within a month.”
“We didn’t bring nuclear weapons here in order to scare someone,” he said.
“Yes, nuclear weapons represent a strong deterring factor. But these are tactical nuclear weapons, not strategic ones. This is why we will use them immediately once aggression is launched against us.”
Belarus was one of the few countries that actively supported Russia during its invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Though it hasn’t yet participated in the war, the recent joint military drills between Russia and Belarus over the past year have fuelled concerns.
The security situation in Eastern Europe has been volatile, as two of the northern neighbours of Belarus—Poland and Lithuania—have been wary of Wagner troops currently stationed in Minsk after a failed coup against Putin in Russia.
Eastern Europe in turmoil
There were reports circulating that Wagner troops have been dispatched towards a thin strip of land between Poland and Lithuania to increase pressure on NATO and European Union members.
Following this, Poland announced that it would move around 10,000 troops to its border with Belarus, and detained two Russians accused of spying and spreading propaganda for the Russian mercenary group.
On Wednesday, Lithuania said it would temporarily suspend operations at two of its six border checkpoints with Belarus due to concerns about Wagner forces, with the interior minister citing “emerging threats to national security and possible provocations at the border.”
In response, Belarus slammed Lithuania for taking an “unconstructive and unfriendly step,” calling its Wagner reasoning “far-fetched.”