Washington does not see any signs that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon, but will keep an eye on the preparations in Belarus to host its ally’s atomic arsenal, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Friday.
Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his counterpart Alexander Lukashenko that the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus might start as early as next month.
Kirby called the announcement “another example of just reckless and irresponsible rhetoric” coming from Moscow, which the US will “have to take seriously.”
“We’re doing the best we can to monitor,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “We don’t see anything out there that shows us that there’s an imminent indication of movement of nuclear capabilities, or imminent risk of nuclear war inside Ukraine or even on the continent.”
“We’ve seen nothing that would cause us to change our own deterrent posture when it comes to those kinds of capabilities,” Kirby added.
The former US Navy admiral had said the same thing in late March, when Russia first announced it would station some of its nuclear weapons in Belarus, in response to the UK sending depleted uranium tank munitions to Ukraine.
“Everything is going according to plan,” Putin told Lukashenko on Friday, adding that by the end of the first week of July “the preparation of the relevant facilities will be completed and we will immediately begin measures related to the deployment of the relevant types of weapons on your territory.”
Moscow and Minsk signed a treaty on hosting Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus last month. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, the atomic warheads will be mounted on Iskander-M missiles and fighter jets specifically modified for the purpose.
Russia has pointed to the US practice called “nuclear sharing,” which has been in effect for decades. An estimated 150 American atomic weapons – mainly B-61 gravity bombs – were deployed in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Türkiye as of April 2022. Poland has since expressed interest in hosting the US nuclear warheads as well.