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Russian nuclear capability in Belarus

Russian nuclear capability in Belarus

The Russian nuclear arsenal consists of both strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW). The majority of strategic nuclear weapons are deployed in mobile missile systems or silos and form the Strategic Missile Forces. The remainder are deployed to be launched from strategic nuclear submarines or strategic bombers. NSNW can be launched from dual-capable platforms that can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads, thereby confusing the enemy in the event of an attack. NSNW play an important role in Russian military planning, providing a regional nuclear deterrent and compensating for a lack of conventional capabilities.

In 2023, Putin and Lukashenka announced that NSNW had been deployed on the territory of Belarus. Typically, the non-strategic nuclear capability is made up of several key elements: infrastructure for storing NSNW, dual-capable delivery systems, trained and certified personnel, and the nuclear warheads themselves. Over the past year, Belarus has made progress in many of these areas. The nuclear storage infrastructure has been renewed. The Belarusian Armed Forces have two potential nuclear delivery means – Su-25 attack aircraft based at the Lida airbase near the Lithuanian border and mobile Iskander-M missile systems at Asipovichy. Belarusian military personnel are being trained to operate with NSNW. All these elements suggest that a credible nuclear capability is being built in Belarus. In any case, full control of NSNW will remain in Russian hands. Russia will use Belarusian territory and personnel but will retain the right to decide whether and how NSNW will be used. The deployment of NSNW in Belarus will only deepen the ties between the two countries and encourage Moscow to maintain control over Minsk at all costs.

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