Sam Hancock1 day ago
It comes amid increasing tensions between Alexander Lukashenko and the EU over the current migrant crisis on the border shared by Belarus and Poland.
Less than two weeks ago, Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary-general, announced in a statement that US nuclear weapons currently stationed inside Germany could well be moved to “other European countries” dependant on a decision about which territories leaders want them to sit in.
“It is for Germany to decide whether there [are] nuclear weapons in [their] country, but the alternative is we end up with nuclear weapons in other countries of Europe, also to the east of Germany,’’ Mr Stoltenberg said at a conference organised by the German Atlantic Association and the Federal Academy for Security Policy.
However, he added: “I expect that Germany will continue to be part of nuclear sharing, because it is so important for Europe.”
Asked by Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya about Mr Stoltenberg’s remarks, Lukashenko said if this happened, he “will propose to [Russian president Vladimir] Putin to return nuclear weapons to Belarus”.
Pushed on what weapons he was referring to, Belarus’ leader went on: “We will agree on what kind. The nuclear weapons that will be most effective in such an engagement. I said for a reason that we in Belarus’ territory are ready for it.”
The situation between Belarus and the EU – specifically Poland – has worsened in recent weeks as the migrant crisis intensified.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Lukashenko admitted his troops probably helped Middle Eastern asylum seekers cross into Europe via Belarus – after previously denying he or his army had anything to do with helping people on dangerous journeys across the border, which have killed at least 11.
“I told [the EU], I’m not going to detain migrants on the border, hold them at the border, and if they keep coming from now on I still won’t stop them, because they’re not coming to my country, they’re going to yours,” he said during the interview from his palace in Minsk.
The European bloc believes Lukashenko engineered the crisis as revenge for sanctions imposed on him and Minsk for human rights abuses following protests in the country over his contested leadership election last year.
Mr Stoltenberg said in his speech on 19 November that Nato’s “aim is a world free of nuclear weapons”. But, he added, “as long as others have them, we must have them too”.