EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged Belarus Sunday not to store Russian nuclear weapons, saying that if it did, it might face additional sanctions. “Belarus hosting Russian nuclear weapons would mean an irresponsible escalation and threat to European security. Belarus can still stop it, it is their choice. The EU stands ready to respond with further sanctions,” Borrell said in a tweet.
He added that Brussels was prepared to sanction Belarus again if Minsk were to host Russian nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, John Kirby, the White House national security council press secretary, said that the U.S. has seen no indication Putin has moved any nuclear weapons.
“We’ve in fact seen no indication that he has any intention to use nuclear weapons, period, inside Ukraine,” Kirby told US broadcaster CBS on Sunday.
Ukraine called for an urgent United Nations Security Council meeting on Sunday, citing Russian statements about placing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Kiev said Sunday Russia is holding Minsk hostage to nuclear weapons, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he was moving tactical nuclear weapons into its ally Belarus.
Putin has made repeated, thinly veiled threats that he might use nuclear weapons inside Ukraine, reigniting Cold War-era fears.
He has also said that if Kiev received such ammunition from the West, following the British proposal it might provide it to Ukraine, it would use Depleted Uranium munitions.
On the question of how Moscow would react if the West supplied Ukraine with depleted uranium rounds, following a British suggestion that it could supply Kyiv with munitions, Putin said Russia had large quantities of such weapons.
“Russia of course has what it needs to answer. Without exaggeration, we have hundreds of thousands of such shells. We have not used them yet,” Putin added in an interview on Russian television.
“There is nothing unusual here either: the United States has been doing this for decades. They have long placed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allies,” Putin said.
The International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has warned that nuclear threats are creating a dangerous sense of uncertainty about their possible use.
The longer the Russian campaign in Ukraine drags on, the greater the risks of nuclear strikes, ICAN warned last month, before the offensive’s first anniversary.
Last month, Putin announced that Moscow will suspend participation in New START, the last remaining arms control treaty between the worlds two leading nuclear powers, Russia and the U.S. NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg has denounced Russia’s suspension of its nuclear arms restrictions treaty with the U.S., saying it marks the end of the post-Cold War arms control architecture in Europe.
The statement came after Moscow suspended U.S. inspections of its military sites last August under New START.
Putin had earlier said in a Kremlin meeting that there was a “growing such threat” over the use of nuclear weapons, but has been coy about Russian policy. U.S. officials have expressed concern that Russia might use nuclear weapons if it felt it was being outflanked in a battlespace, and might create a fake history to justify its actions.
Russia has already talked about an alleged Ukrainian effort to detonate a “dirty bomb,” drawing vehement denials from Ukraine and sharp condemnation from the US, which has rarely communicated directly with Moscow to warn of a nuclear strike.
Neither the United States nor Russia, far and away the largest nuclear weapons state, has an official policy to avoid using ultra-destructive weapons first. A recent U.S. posturing review led by President Joe Biden concluded only that nuclear weapons must only be used “in extreme circumstances”.