Russia and Belarus have signed a document paving the way for the deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus as early as July. It follows the announcement in March the Moscow would station its nuclear weapons in Belarus – likening it to so-called ‘nuclear-sharing’ by NATO. The move has been met with calls from CND for renewed efforts towards disarmament and the promotion of peaceful resolutions to the war in Ukraine. 

Thursday’s agreement was signed by both Belarusian and Russian defence ministers and deals with the storage of nuclear warheads at a special facility scheduled to be completed on 1 July, suggesting deployment could take place this summer.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia would remain in control of any nuclear weapons stationed in Belarus and any decision to use them would be taken by Moscow.  However, some Belarusian Su-25 aircraft have been converted to carry nuclear weapons and Shoigu noted that some Belarusian service personnel had received the necessary training. 

An online survey of Belarusians by the Chatham House think tank in March found that 74 percent of respondents were opposed to the stationing of nuclear weapons in their country. 

The announcement comes as the US plans to deploy its upgraded B61-12 guided nuclear bomb to NATO bases across Europe – which could include Lakenheath airbase in Suffolk. It also follows the G7 summit which took place in Japan, where attending leaders laid wreaths at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. However, despite calls from anti-nuclear campaigners and Hibakusha to use the summit to make big moves towards nuclear disarmament, their statement contained no such commitments.

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said:

“Russia and Belarus must reverse this irresponsible and dangerous decision that goes against the wishes of the Belarusian people.  The deployment of nuclear weapons across Europe – either by Russia or NATO – seriously raises the chances of their use or an accident where they are stationed. The peoples of Belarus and Ukraine are all too familiar with the terrible health legacies of nuclear contamination – a nuclear war in Europe would make that a reality for the entire continent on a scale never seen before. CND calls on nuclear weapons states to stop their escalatory actions and to finally get serious about disarmament.”

Image: Russian Ministry of Defence