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Ukraine is urging the United Nations (UN) to call an emergency Security Council meeting to condemn what the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is calling “nuclear blackmail” on the part of the Kremlin.
According to a statement issued by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Sunday, “Ukraine expects effective measures to counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail by the United Kingdom, China, the USA, and France, in particular, as permanent members of the UN Security Council.”
“We demand to immediately convene an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council for this purpose,” the statement added.
The request from Ukraine came in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing over the weekend that Russia has made an agreement with neighboring Belarus to place tactical nuclear weapons on its territory, which Ukraine views as a serious escalation aimed at not only Ukraine but also its Western allies.
Putin attempted to justify the move by claiming that it was needed to counter NATO, saying, “We are doing what they have been doing for decades.” It is likely that Putin was referring to the tactical nukes that the U.S., and therefore NATO, have had placed in Turkey, across the Black Sea from Russia’s southern border, for decades. The nuclear weapons in Turkey are part of a “nuclear sharing” policy between NATO allies.
Putin claimed that Russia could have nukes stationed in Belarus by the summer, but numerous analysts believe that to be unlikely. Regardless, many in the West viewed the claim as the Kremlin’s determination to use Russia’s nuclear arsenal to pressure Ukraine’s Western allies to shy away from supporting Kyiv.
Putin’s remarks were condemned by Western leaders as being irresponsible, even though many in the West doubt that Russia will make changes to the way it deploys nuclear weapons.
Amid other claims, Putin has stated that 10 Belarusian aircraft have been retrofitted to carry Russian nuclear weapons and also noted that a storage facility for the weapons would be ready by July 1.
Analysts have been quick to point out that even if Putin followed through on his remarks and did transfer some of Russia’s nuclear warheads to Belarus, it would not significantly alter the Russian nuclear threat as it already has the ability to target a large range of territory from within its borders.
There is also the ongoing history of Western allies having U.S. tactical nuclear weapons stationed in a host of European countries, which Russia has long condemned, so Putin’s insistence that the warheads are being repositioned to counter NATO is by far more of an excuse than it is a credible reason.