Less than three years after Belarus signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, president Aleksandr Lukashenko threatened January 18 to redeploy nuclear weapons in that country. Speaking to a gathering of academics in Moscow, Lukashenko depicted such redeployment as a possible response to the security threat ostensibly posed by NATO enlargement. He noted that he had become an enemy of the west due to his opposition to NATO expansion and proclaimed his readiness to defend the interests of both Minsk and Moscow on Belarus’s western border. (10) Lukashenko’s remarks symbolize a change in Belarusian nuclear policy. After emerging from the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a nominal nuclear power, Minsk readily acceded to rapid de-nuclearization and interim Russian control over its nuclear arsenal. By early 1992 all tactical nuclear weapons had been withdrawn from Belarus, leaving only 80 mobile single-warhead SS-25 ICBM’s. In February 1993 the Belarusian parliament ratified the START-1 Treaty and the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
All nuclear weapons were scheduled to be withdrawn from Belarus by mid-1995, but that schedule was not met. Lukashenko, moreover, recently questioned the country’s adherence to the non-proliferation agreement. Eighteen SS-25 missiles remain in Belarus and the Belarusian president was quoted January 12 as suggesting that he might use the missiles as a bargaining chip to win cash compensation from the U.S. (11) Assurances days later by the commander-in-chief of Russia’s strategic forces that all nuclear warheads would be withdrawn from Belarus during the first half of 1996 leave the Belarusian strategy open to question. Lukashenko’s most recent statements should be seen in the context of Russian opposition to NATO expansion, and Moscow’s threat to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to its western border as the response.
…As Ukraine Temporizes on NATO Expansion.