Ukraine sees Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin with his announced stationing of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus driven by fear of a possible defeat in the war. “Putin is so predictable,” wrote Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to the presidential office in Kiev. With the announcement, the Kremlin chief admitted that he was afraid of losing the war against Ukraine. He also confirmed once again that he was involved in crimes for violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Russian President said on Saturday that Russia would not hand over control of the weapons to Belarus, but would only keep the missiles in the country. Moscow is acting no differently than Washington, which has also stationed US nuclear weapons with its allies in Europe. Russia adheres to international agreements, Putin stressed.

After voluntarily surrendering its nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Belarus is now receiving nuclear missiles for the first time since the 1990s. In Belarus, ruler Alexander Lukashenko, who is politically and economically dependent on Putin, asked Russia to do so even before the war. He also had the constitution changed, which no longer stipulates a nuclear-weapon-free status. According to Putin, training on weapons in Belarus should begin in April, and the depots for the nuclear missiles should be completed on July 1.

NATO is monitoring the situation closely

NATO sees no need for action with regard to its own nuclear weapons. A spokeswoman said on Sunday that one was vigilant and was observing the situation closely. “We have not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear lineup that would cause us to adjust our own,” she said. Russia’s nuclear rhetoric is dangerous and irresponsible.

Russia’s reference to NATO’s nuclear participation is misleading, NATO said: “The NATO allies are acting in full compliance with their international obligations,” the spokeswoman said. Russia has repeatedly violated its arms control obligations.

Sofia calls for negotiations

Bulgaria’s Vice-President Ilijana Jotova calls for negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in view of Putin’s announcement. The situation is becoming “more and more dangerous and frightening,” said the Vice President of the south-eastern European country in Sofia on Sunday. That’s why she and Bulgarian President Rumen Radev repeatedly called for negotiations: “These are not empty words,” said Jotova. This is Bulgaria’s wish, because more armaments in all countries leads to unpredictable decisions and in practice a serious war is now threatening.

Jotowa said of the announced transfer of Russian nuclear weapons: “I hope that reason will prevail after all. And that this case is more about threats than real action.”

Don’t be intimidated by Putin’s nuclear plans

The Union in the Bundestag advises calm when dealing with the Russian announcement that nuclear weapons will be stationed in Belarus. NATO has been “adjusted to this for a long time,” said CDU foreign policy expert Roderich Kiesewetter to the editorial network Germany (Monday). He therefore considers a short-term reaction to be unnecessary. “Thanks to a modernized, credible nuclear sharing in Europe, we do not need any additional stationing of nuclear weapons in other NATO countries,” he said. In the long term, however, the Western military alliance should not rule this out.

He also said that so far the nuclear threats by Russian President Vladimir Putin have had an impact in Germany in particular. “Putin is aiming at fear and self-deterrence by constantly emphasizing a completely unrealistic nuclear war.” In this way, Russia is achieving the goal of permanent uncertainty. “We can’t allow that, we have to calmly and objectively inform our population,” he said.

The chairman of the Europe Committee in the Bundestag, Anton Hofreiter, made a similar statement. “Our task is to issue further sanctions at European level and to continue to support Ukraine,” the Green politician told the Funke media group newspapers. “Nuclear threats have been part of the Kremlin’s repertoire since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression.” However, there is still no evidence that Russia is actually planning to use its nuclear weapons. “The aim of the threats is to undermine Western support for Ukraine.”

US Institute: No Growing Danger of Nuclear War

From the point of view of US experts, the announced stationing does not mean a growing danger of nuclear war. Saturday night’s announcement was irrelevant to the “risk of escalation to nuclear war, which remains extremely low,” according to an analysis by the US Institute for War Studies (ISW). Russia has already been able to reach any point on earth with its nuclear weapons. But Putin is a “risk-averse actor who repeatedly threatens to use nuclear weapons without intending to do so.”

Putin wants to stir up fears of a nuclear escalation in the West in order to break support for Ukraine, for example in the delivery of heavy weapons. According to the ISW, it is “very unlikely that Russia will use nuclear weapons in Ukraine or anywhere else.” According to the ISW, Putin’s step was already announced before the war in Ukraine. By stationing nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia is above all cementing its influence in the ex-Soviet republic.

In the new ISW analysis, the experts also doubt Putin’s announcement that he will build or modernize 1,600 tanks this year. According to this, Russia’s only tank factory Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) can only produce 20 tanks a month, but is losing many times that number every day in the war in Ukraine.

According to the ISW authors, Putin is primarily trying to create an “aura of the Soviet era” with its strong military industry at the time. However, his statements have nothing to do with the reality that the economic power and military capacities of the USA and Europe are superior to those of Russia.