Russia and Belarus Begin Second Stage of Tactical Nuclear Weapons Drills Amid Rising Tensions with the West

Russia and Belarus launch the second phase of tactical nuclear drills to counter Western support for Ukraine. Tensions rise as Kremlin emphasizes the importance of combat readiness.
Russia and Belarus Begin Second Stage of Tactical Nuclear Weapons Drills Amid Rising Tensions with the West

Russia and Belarus have embarked on the second stage of their tactical nuclear weapons drills, a strategic move aimed at deterring Western nations from escalating their support for Ukraine. This follows recent statements by French President Emmanuel Macron regarding potential troop deployments to Ukraine and affirmations from the US and NATO allies that Kyiv can utilize Western-supplied weapons against Russian border areas.


The initial phase of these exercises, conducted last month, focused on preparing for nuclear missions, including the arming and deployment of missiles. The current drills, which began on Tuesday, involve joint training for Russian and Belarusian troops on the use of non-strategic nuclear weapons in combat scenarios. The Russian Ministry of Defence stated that the objective is to ensure the readiness of personnel and equipment to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russia-Belarus alliance.


Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov emphasized the importance of these drills in light of the “hostile decisions and actions” by the US and its allies. "The situation in Europe is quite tense," Peskov told reporters. "Such drills and maintaining combat readiness are crucial in response to daily provocations."


Since launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned that Russia might resort to nuclear weapons to defend itself under extreme circumstances. Last year, Russia relocated some of its tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, which borders Ukraine and NATO member states Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has maintained close ties with Russia and allowed his country to serve as a staging ground for the invasion of Ukraine.


Tactical nuclear weapons, which include air bombs, short-range missile warheads, and artillery munitions, are designed for battlefield use and are typically less powerful than strategic nuclear weapons, which are capable of destroying entire cities. However, Putin has remarked that Russia’s battlefield nuclear weapons are significantly more powerful than the atomic bombs the US dropped on Japan in 1945.


Recently, Putin asserted that the West is mistaken in assuming that Russia will never use its nuclear arsenal. According to Russia’s nuclear doctrine, the use of nuclear weapons is permitted if the very existence of the Russian state is threatened.


Despite these developments, US officials have noted no change in Russia’s strategic nuclear posture, although senior intelligence officials have stressed the importance of taking Moscow’s nuclear threats seriously.


Russia and the United States are the world’s largest nuclear powers, holding approximately 88 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, according to the Federation of American Scientists.