The idea of nuclear weapons deployment was inspired by a similar approach by Poland to the US, President Lukashenko said
The idea of returning nuclear weapons to Belarus was prompted by Poland's wish to deploy atomic weapons from the US on its territory, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko explained on Saturday.
"This topic with the President of Russia appeared after the Poles turned to the Americans and asked them to bring nuclear weapons to Poland. Then I told President Putin: 'Why are we pretending that nothing is happening?'" Lukashenko said in his Independence Day speech in Minsk, the nation's capital.
Lukashenko explained that his talks with Putin on the matter should not be considered as "nuclear blackmail." He claimed that the conclusion that Minsk should be able to provide a reciprocal response to potential hostile action "within 24 hours" came after a long period of consultations. "To do this, we need to prepare. And we will prepare. We do not threaten anyone, we do not blackmail anyone," he said.
On June 25, Lukashenko asked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to help Belarus "to adapt" Su-35 planes, which, he stressed, "can carry nuclear charges."
Putin gave the green light to modernization of "a fairly large group" of aircraft and also pledged that "within the next few months" Russia will send its ally Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which can use both ballistic and cruise missiles "in both usual and nuclear versions." The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later stressed that there was no talk about the transfer of missiles with nuclear weapons to Minsk.
In his Independence Day speech Lukashenko reminded of the fact that in the past Belarus has moved its nuclear arsenal to Russia and therefore he has the right to demand "from the president of fraternal Russia" to ensure that the Belarusian state border is properly protected.
"This is what I did," he said.
Lukashenko has always criticized his predecessor's decision to withdraw nuclear weapons from Belarus, calling it the "worst mistake."
In early April, Poland's Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said that if the US asked his country to store its nuclear weapons, Warsaw "would be open to that."
"It would significantly increase the deterrent against Moscow," the premier said, adding that, at the moment, such a question is not on the agenda.
Dmitry Peskov responded to Kaczynski's remarks, saying that such a line from Polish leadership causes "deep concern."
"The line is extremely militant, anti-Russian. The proposed actions can only lead to a further increase in tension on the continent," he said.
American officials, meanwhile, insist that it is Russia that has upped the nuclear ante, with both Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Mark Milley accusing the country of "nuclear saber-rattling" following an April media interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who argued the risk of atomic war is "serious, real, and we must not underestimate it."