Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus would mark the first time since the mid-1990s that such weapons were based outside Russia.
In an interview released ahead of its broadcast on Russian state television on Sunday, Putin provided new details of a plan that he first floated last year to base Russian weapons in Belarus, a close ally.
He said that 10 Belarusian warplanes have already been retrofitted to carry Russian nuclear weapons and that a warhead storage facility would be ready by July 1.
The move underscored the Kremlin’s determination to use its vast nuclear arsenal to pressure the West to back down from its support of Ukraine.
The Russian president argued that the deployment would not breach non-proliferation agreements and would match similar arrangements that the U.S. has with several of its European allies.
It is estimated by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation that there are about 100 American nuclear weapons – airborne gravity bombs – stored in Europe across six bases in five countries. However, they are retained in the control of the U.S.