Russia’s closest ally holding Putin's nukes warns it won't hesitate to them in response to any threat from the West

Belarus, Russia’s closest ally and a staunch supporter of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, will not hesitate to deploy nuclear weapons if it feels threatened by “crazies in the West,” the country’s president Aleksandr Lukashenko has warned.

In an interview with state-controlled news agency Belta on Thursday, Lukashenko—who has been Belarus’s head of state since 1994—said his country would “deliver an unacceptable strike” on any force believed to have threatened its territorial integrity.  

“If aggression against our country is launched from the side of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, we will immediately respond with everything we have,” he said. “They will receive unacceptable harm, damage.”

He said this would happen despite Belarus being aware that its own forces cannot compete with the power of NATO, whose member states include Poland, Lithuania and Latvia—countries with whom Belarus shares a border.

“The nuclear weapons deployed in Belarus will definitely not be used unless we face aggression,” Lukashenko said. “[But] if an act of aggression is committed against us … we will use the entire arsenal of our weapons.”

Russia said in June that it had begun delivering tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, saying that they had been stationed on Belarusian ground for “deterrence.”

U.S. President Joe Biden later warned that the threat of Russia using nuclear weapons is “real.”

According to Lukashenko, the weapons had not been brought to his country “to scare” anyone—but he said his willingness to use them in the event of perceived aggression extended to countries beyond Ukraine.

“Leave us alone,” he warned. “We leave you alone and you should leave us alone. I mean Ukraine least of all. I mean primarily those crazies in the West.”

Representatives for Lukashenko and the Belarusian government did not respond to Fortune’s requests for comment.

A spokesperson for NATO—the military alliance whose 31 member countries include the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany—was not immediately available for comment.

Russian nuclear threats

Lukashenko’s threat about deploying nuclear weapons builds on a series of warnings from the Kremlin about its willingness to deploy nuclear weapons.

In a television address last September, Putin warned that if Russian territory came under threat, his government would “certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.”

“It is not a bluff,” he warned.

Last month, Dmitry Medvedev—a former Russian president who now serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council—said the Russian government would use nuclear weapons if Kyiv’s counteroffensive was successful.

“Imagine if the offensive … which is backed by NATO, was successful and they tore off a part of our land. Then we would be forced to use a nuclear weapon according to the rules of a decree from the president of Russia,” he said in a post to the Telegram messaging app.

“There would simply be no other option,” he added. “Therefore, our enemies should pray for our warriors’ [success]. They are ensuring that a global nuclear fire is not ignited.”

Who is Aleksandr Lukashenko?

Belarusian president Lukashenko has long held a reputation as Europe’s last dictator, thanks to fraudulent elections, accusations of human rights violations and the imprisonment of political opponents, as well as the persecution of journalists who criticize his regime.

Under his stewardship, Belarus—a former Soviet state—has seen relations with neighboring Russia become increasingly close. In 1999, the two countries formed a “union state” to solidify their economic cooperation.

More recently, Lukashenko has made it clear that Belarus is a loyal political and military ally to Russia and its president Vladimir Putin.

As Moscow amassed thousands of troops at the Ukrainian border in early 2022—sparking global speculation that Russia was about to illegally invade its neighbor—Lukashenko deployed special forces to Belarus’s southern border with Ukraine. Russia and Belarus also carried out joint military drills near Belarus and Ukraine’s shared border.

After Russia launched its so-called “special operation,” it used Belarus as a launchpad to send soldiers on their offensive into Ukraine.

Since both countries have been slapped with stringent Western sanctions as a result of the war in Ukraine, their economic alliance has been reinforced as trade between the pair has increased.

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