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Russia has decided to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus with Vladimir Putin‘s announcement on Saturday being taken as a clear warning to NATO amid escalating tensions with the West. Although the move was not entirely unexpected, it represents one of Russia‘s most clear-cut nuclear threats since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago.

Putin has maintained that the deployment would not violate Russia‘s nuclear non-proliferation pledges. In recent times, some hawkish Russian politicians and commentators have speculated about the possibility of nuclear strikes, arguing that Russia has the right to defend itself with nuclear weapons if it is pushed beyond its limits.

Hans Kristensen, director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists, said: “This is part of Putin’s game to try to intimidate NATO … because there is no military utility from doing this in Belarus as Russia has so many of these weapons and forces inside Russia.”

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has branded Putin’s announcement an extremely dangerous escalation.

In a statement on Twitter, the organisation said: “In the context of the war in Ukraine, the likelihood of miscalculation or misinterpretation is extremely high.

“Sharing nuclear weapons makes the situation much worse and risks catastrophic humanitarian consequences.”