Russia deploys tactical nuclear weapons to consolidate military control over Belarus
Military analysts at the Institute for the Study of War believe that the Kremlin's statements about the transfer of nuclear warheads are a consolidation of Russia's de facto military control over Belarus
ISW shared the report on June 16.
The report notes that Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive actions on at least three sectors of the front on June 16 and reportedly made gains.
The analysts also point out that the Kremlin said that Russia has begun transferring tactical nuclear warheads (under Russian control) to Belarus in accordance with previously announced plans.
According to the ISW's preliminary assessment, the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus is part of a long-term effort to consolidate Russia's de facto military control over Belarus, and is highly unlikely to presage any Russian escalation.
In addition, analysts have pointed out that several current and former Russian municipal officials have signed an open letter calling on Russian troops to return to the "universally recognized" borders of the Russian Federation due to the crisis caused by the destruction of the Kakhovka dam.
In particular, it adds that officials from Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as Moscow and Leningrad regions, signed a document stating that the destruction of the Kakhovka dam will affect the planet's ecosystem, health issues, and economy for many decades.
The report emphasized that Russian officials who are not affiliated with the Kremlin can use public concern about the environmental and humanitarian situation associated with the destruction of the Kakhovka dam to express opposition to the war in Ukraine without directly criticizing the military actions themselves, as the Kremlin has created conditions for "suppressing anti-war dissent."
Russia's nuclear weapons
On March 25, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said that a storage facility for Russian tactical nuclear weapons would be built in Belarus by July.
On March 31, self-proclaimed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus could host strategic nuclear weapons if necessary.
In April, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the transfer of Iskanders, which can carry nuclear weapons, to Belarus. And in late May, the Belarusian army held exercises during which it practiced striking with Iskanders.
On June 14, the Belarusian leader said that nuclear weapons from Russia started to arrive in Belarus. He emphasized that Belarus would launch them only in case of a direct threat to his country.
Also, on June 16, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said that Russia had transferred part of its nuclear weapons to Belarus. The rest will be transferred by the end of the year.
Tactical nuclear weapons are small nuclear warheads and delivery systems designed for use on the battlefield or for a limited strike. They are designed to destroy enemy targets in a specific area without causing massive radioactive fallout. Strategic nuclear weapons have a greater radius of destruction and are delivered by cruise and ballistic missiles and aircraft.