He Russian President Vladimir Putinannounced this Saturday, March 25, an agreement with Belarus for the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear bombs in Belarusian territory in response to the British announcement that it will deliver depleted uranium ammunition to the Ukrainian Army.
Depleted uranium ammunition is mainly used to pierce the armor of military vehicles such as main battle tanks or troop carriers and is also useful against the hull of warships.
In his announcement on Saturday, the Russian leader explained that the construction of the facilities for the storage of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus will be completed on July 1. These weapons will remain under Russian control.
In addition, he stressed that this shipment of nuclear weapons, in the face of Ukrainian accusations, does not violate non-proliferation agreements because the United States has had nuclear weapons in other countries for years.
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Belarus has already had tactical missiles for months Iskander capable of carrying nuclear warheads and Russia has up to ten nuclear-capable combat aircraft deployed in Belarusian territory.
The secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Oleksii Danilov, accused Putin of having made Belarus his “nuclear hostage” after announcing the deployment in that country of short-range tactical nuclear weapons.
“Putin’s statement is a step towards the internal destabilization of the country: it maximizes the level of negative perception and public rejection of Russia and Putin in Belarusian society”said the Ukrainian official on his Twitter account. “The Kremlin took Belarus as a nuclear hostage,” he added.
For his part, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhailo Podoliak limited himself to describing Putin’s announcement as an intimidation tactic that demonstrates, in his opinion, Russian weakness in Ukraine. “Putin is too predictable,” he posted on Twitter.
“He made a statement in which he admits that he is afraid of losing and all it can do is scare with this kind of tactics,” said the Ukrainian official, who also indicated that, by making the announcement, the Russian president “violated the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.”
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What are the tactical nuclear weapons that Russia will deploy in Belarus?
Tactical nuclear weapons are by definition those that have battlefield utility, actual military use against a hostile force, and the most widely held academic definition is that These are bombs of between 1 and 50 kilotons installed on projectiles with a range of up to 500 kilometers..
To have an idea of its magnitude, we can remember that the bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in 1945 was 15 kilotons and was launched from a bomber. Tactical nuclear weapons however can be delivered in the case of Russia from ships, planes and even by ground forces.
They are much more destructive than a conventional head even though they have the same explosive energy. and cause radiation contamination that affects the air, soil, water and the food chain, reported Europa Press.
These types of tactical nuclear weapons were not included in any nuclear arms control agreement and medium-range nuclear weapons were only included in the Medium-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, in force from 1987 to 2018.
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Strategic nuclear weapons, on the other hand, have the deterrence and mutually assured destruction capability that dominated the Cold War. The United States and Russia reduced their arsenal of these weapons from 19,000 and 35,000 to 3,700 and 4,480 by January 2022.
“Large-scale nuclear attacks are considered unfeasible. Strategic nuclear weapons are losing their deterrent value in a war between nuclear powers. The use of tactical nuclear weapons is more likely, in theory, so their possession would strengthen a country’s deterrence,” he explained. Nina Srinivasan Rathbun, Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California, United States.
Despite their greater power, the military utility of tactical nuclear weapons is questionable, as bombs with conventional explosives are becoming more powerful, to the point that the United States has reduced their number. Most of its arsenal of 150 B61 gravity nuclear bombs is in Europe.
France and the United Kingdom completely eliminated their tactical arsenalsalthough Pakistan, China, India, North Korea and Israel do have bombs of this type.
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Questionable military utility
US military studies concluded that a one kiloton tactical nuclear bomb would need to be detonated within 90 meters of a main battle tank to cause serious damage. Studies of its use in a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan suggest that a 5-kiloton Pakistani tactical nuclear bomb used against a regiment of Indian main battle tanks could destroy about 13 tanks.
Russia for its part has some 2,000 tactical nuclear bombs which have a very important role in its nuclear strategy mainly due to its lower capacity and technological advances in conventional weapons.
They are mostly prepared for use on air-to-surface missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, gravity bombs, and depth charges carried by medium-range tactical bombers or by anti-ship or anti-submarine torpedoes.
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In recent years Russia developed conventional and nuclear dual-use missiles, which caused some concern in Washington, since it is not known until the last moment what type of explosive head it carries. In particular, the manufacture of missiles was extended Iskander-Mwhich have already been used to attack specific targets in Ukraine, always with non-nuclear explosives.
However, the use of Russian nuclear weapons in Ukraine does not seem very logical.
“I think it would achieve no military objective. It would contaminate territory that Russia considers to be part of its historical empire and would likely affect Russia itself. It would increase the chances of direct NATO intervention and destroy Russia’s image in the world,” said Nina Srinivasan Rathbun.
For this reason, its deployment in Belarus has more to do with the Tsar Bomb, a hydrogen bomb developed by the Soviet Union and detonated in the Barents Sea. It had more than 50 megatons of power and its size made it not very useful at the war level, but it fulfilled its function at the propaganda level.
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