Like a lot of what Vladimir Putin says about nuclear weapons, his suggestion that Russia would start storing its bombs in Belarus may add up to less than it appears.
In February last year, Putin said he was putting Russia’s nuclear arsenal on high alert, but there was no perceptible change in the country’s nuclear posture, or any unusual movements of its weapons.
Putin and the leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, have been hinting at some kind of nuclear basing arrangement for some time. Over a year ago, the Belarus leader staged a referendum to change the constitution to allow for that.
What Putin is threatening this time is to take another couple of steps along that road, starting the training of Belarus aircrews in early April to pilot aircraft carrying nuclear bombs, and to finish storage facilities for tactical nuclear weapons by 1 July.
Nuclear experts are sceptical of such ambitious timelines, and point out that Russia has been working on a nuclear weapon storage facility in Kaliningrad for at least seven years and it is still not clear whether the bombs have actually arrived there.
So far, no satellite imagery has surfaced that might suggest something similar is being built in Belarus. [Continue reading…]