The US leader voices alarm over Moscow’s missile deployments in Belarus
President Joe Biden has claimed there is a “real” threat that Russia will use tactical nuclear weapons, soon after the Kremlin announced that it had stationed some of its arsenal on the territory of its closest ally.
Speaking to a group of donors in California on Monday, Biden suggested that Russia’s moves in Belarus could be a sign that it is preparing to use its smaller-yield tactical nukes, despite recent comments from the White House acknowledging no “imminent indication” of any such attack.
“When I was out here about two years ago saying I worried about the Colorado river drying up, everybody looked at me like I was crazy,” he said, adding “They looked at me like when I said I worry about [Russian President Vladimir] Putin using tactical nuclear weapons. It’s real.”
The statement came after the president slammed Russia’s deployments as “totally irresponsible” over the weekend. He previously told reporters he felt “extremely negative” about the decision.
Moscow and Minsk finalized an agreement on hosting tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory last month. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, the atomic warheads will be mounted on Iskander-M missiles and fighter jets specifically modified for the purpose.
Russia first announced that talks on the deployments were underway in March, and said the decision was a response to Britain supplying depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine last year.
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed that a number of low-yield warheads had already arrived on the territory of Belarus, and told his counterpart Alexander Lukashenko that “everything is going according to plan.”
Responding to critical reactions from US officials, the Russian Embassy in the United States previously accused Washington of hypocrisy on the issue, pointing to some 150 American nuclear missiles stationed across Western Europe and Türkiye.
“The United States has been for decades maintaining a large arsenal of its nuclear weapons in Europe. Together with its NATO allies it participates in nuclear-sharing arrangements and trains for scenarios of nuclear weapons use against our country,” it said, adding “Before blaming others, Washington could use some introspection.”