MOSCOW-The long-time President of Belarus said on Tuesday that if NATO transfers the US atomic bomb from Germany to Eastern Europe, Belarus will be prepared to accept Russian nuclear weapons.
In an interview, President Alexander Lukashenko also stated for the first time that he recognized that the Crimea Peninsula is part of Russia and plans to visit soon. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move deemed illegal by the West.
When Lukashenko made the above remarks, he took action to consolidate relations with Russia. Russia is his main ally and sponsor. Because of his tense relations with the West due to controversy over his re-election last year, Belarus suppressed dissidents.
When asked if the new German government is no longer willing to redeploy nuclear weapons to Eastern Europe, Lukashenko replied that he would invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to return to Belarus the nuclear weapons withdrawn after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.
In an interview with Dmitry Kiselyov, head of Rossiya Segodnya, the Russian state media group, Lukashenko said: “I will propose Putin to return nuclear weapons to Belarus.”
The leader of Belarus did not specify what kind of weapons Belarus is willing to accommodate, only that it will accommodate the “most effective” weapons. He added that Belarus has carefully preserved the necessary military infrastructure dating back to the Soviet era.
Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya) left Belarus under pressure after failing to overthrow Lukashenko in last year’s elections. She condemned the president’s remarks.
“Such people should not be trusted to handle the game, let alone nuclear weapons,” she told the Associated Press.
Zihanusskaya said that Russia’s deployment of nuclear weapons to Belarus would violate the international weapons agreement and the will of the Belarusian people. “Most Belarusians support Belarusian neutrality,” she said.
Earlier this month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that if the new German government changes the country’s nuclear sharing policy, the Western military alliance will need to consider redeploying nuclear weapons eastward.
Stoltenberg said: “Of course, Germany can decide whether your country has nuclear weapons, but another option is that we can easily have nuclear weapons in other European countries and eastern Germany.”
Alexei Arbatov, a foreign policy expert based in Moscow, described the possible redeployment of the atomic bomb to Eastern Europe by the United States as a “crazy risky act.” Interfax News Agency quoted Arbatov as saying that if Moscow responds by sending nuclear weapons to Belarus, “the situation will be more dangerous than during the Cold War.”
Since Lukashenko faced Western pressure in a vote in August 2020 to be re-elected for a sixth term, both the opposition and the West have rejected him on grounds of manipulation, and his relationship with Russia is getting closer. The Belarusian authorities completely suppressed the protests triggered by the elections, prompting the European Union and the United States to impose multiple rounds of sanctions on Belarus.
Since the summer, tensions have escalated as thousands of migrants and refugees have arrived at the border between Belarus and EU member Poland.
The EU accuses Lukashenko of retaliating against its sanctions, using desperate asylum seekers as pawns to induce them to try to enter Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in order to destabilize the entire EU.
The Belarusian authorities denied these allegations and accused the European Union of failing to provide safe passage for immigrants and refugees. Since November 8, due to the confrontation between the two armies, a large number of people, mainly Iraqi Kurds, have been trapped at the border crossing between Belarus and Poland.
Most people trapped in freezing temperatures are fleeing domestic conflict or despair and intend to travel to Germany or other Western European countries.
Lukashenko tried to reverse the situation in the West, viewing the immigration tensions as part of a Western conspiracy against Belarus and Russia.
Russia and Belarus have reached an alliance agreement that envisages the establishment of close political, economic, and military relations, but Lukashenko has tried to navigate between Moscow and the West in the past, trying to win concessions from all sides.
Although he relied on cheap energy and loans provided by Russia, he did not admit that Moscow had annexed Crimea until Tuesday. In an interview on Tuesday, he said that he believes Crimea is actually and legally part of Russia. Lukashenko added that he plans to visit Crimea at the invitation of Putin.
“If the president and the Russian president come there together, what other forms of recognition are there?” he said.
Ukrainian and Western authorities have expressed concern in recent days about the alleged Kremlin’s plan to invade Ukraine. Lukashenko warned that if the Ukrainian government launches an offensive against the rebels backed by Moscow in eastern Ukraine, his country will firmly support Russia.
Yuras Karmanau of Kiev, Ukraine contributed to this report.
Follow the Associated Press report on Belarus on https://apnews.com/hub/belarus