Russia on Saturday rejected US President Joe Biden’s criticism of Moscow’s proposal to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, claiming that Washington has been deploying such weapons in Europe for decades.
Russia announced on Thursday that it was moving forward with the first deployment of such weapons beyond its borders since the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed the weapons were already on the road.
On Friday, Biden expressed an “extremely negative” reaction to the news that Russia had proceeded with plans to deploy tactical nuclear pikes in Belarus. The Russian nuclear deployment plan has been condemned by the US State Department.
“It is the sovereign right of Russia and Belarus to ensure their security by means we deem necessary amidst a large-scale hybrid war unleashed by Washington against us,” Russia’s embassy in the United States said in a statement.
“The measures we undertake are fully consistent with our international legal obligations.”
The United States has said the world faces the gravest nuclear danger since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis because of remarks by President Vladimir Putin during the Ukraine conflict, but Moscow says its position has been misinterpreted.
Putin, who has cast the Ukraine war as a battle for the survival of Russia against an aggressive West, has repeatedly warned that Russia, which has more nuclear weapons than any other country, will use all means to defend itself.
Tactical nuclear weapons are used for tactical gains on the battlefield and are usually smaller in yield than strategic nuclear weapons designed to destroy U.S., European, or Russian cities.
The Russian Embassy called the U.S. criticism of Moscow’s planned deployment hypocritical, saying that “before blaming others, Washington could use some introspection”.
“The United States has been maintaining a large arsenal of its nuclear weapons in Europe for decades.” Together with its NATO allies, it participates in nuclear sharing arrangements and trains for scenarios of nuclear weapons use against our country.”
The United States has deployed nuclear weapons in Western Europe since U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized their deployment in the Cold War as a counter to the perceived threat from the Soviet Union. The first U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe were in Britain in 1954.
Much of the detail about the current U.S. deployment is classified, though the Federation of American Scientists says that the U.S. has 100 B61 tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe—in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, and the Netherlands.