Minsk has pointed to the practice of ?nuclear sharing? by the NATO alliance as a precedent
Military co-operation between Moscow and Minsk is in "strict accordance with international law," the Belarusian foreign ministry said on Tuesday, denying Western nations had grounds to criticize a deal to host Russian tactical nuclear weapons.
Over the past few years, Belarus has been subjected to "unprecedented political, economic and informational pressure" by the US, the UK, other NATO countries and the EU, the ministry said, blasting their "direct and blatant meddling" in its affairs. The nuclear hosting deal is in response to those actions, according to Minsk, which is "taking necessary actions to strengthen its own security and defense capability."
The ministry went on to state that "the training of Belarusian pilots to fly aircraft with specific munitions, the modernization of such aircraft, as well as the deployment of nuclear warheads on the territory of Belarus without transferring control over them to Minsk," would not qualify as a breach of non-proliferation agreements.
"Moreover, this is not a novelty in the field of military cooperation between non-nuclear and nuclear powers. NATO has long had the practice of 'joint nuclear missions,' the planes of the alliance member countries are certified for flights with nuclear weapons, the flight personnel for such 'missions' is being trained, and appropriate exercises are being conducted," the statement continued, adding that currently, "more than 150 US tactical nuclear weapons are stored on the territory of European NATO member countries."
The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarusian territory was announced last week by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Currently, Moscow is finishing the construction of a specialized storage facility for such munitions, following repeated requests by Minsk to station them on its soil, he said.
The move was condemned by Western officials, with the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, threatening to impose new sanctions against Russia's ally unless it withdraws its approval.
"Belarus hosting Russian nuclear weapons would mean an irresponsible escalation and threat to European security," Borrell said on Sunday. "Belarus can still stop it, it is their choice," he added, warning the bloc was "ready to respond with further sanctions" if necessary.