US officials believe that the Russian force in Belarus is unusually large, concerned that this is a move to help Moscow place nuclear weapons in the neighboring country.
The US is worried about Russia placing nuclear weapons in Belarus
“The size of the Russian force coming to Belarus exceeds what we would expect from a conventional exercise. The timing of the deployment is also remarkable, raising many concerns that Russia may be stationed in Belarus under the guise of a show. gathered to prepare to attack Ukraine,” the US official said yesterday.
The official, who asked not to be named, said that a referendum to change the Belarusian constitution next month could pave the way for a long-term Russian military presence in the neighboring country. “The draft change shows that Belarus intends to allow Russia to deploy both conventional and nuclear weapons on its territory. It is a challenge to European security and may require a response,” this person added.
The exercise normally involves about 9,000 troops and needs to be notified to neighboring countries 42 days in advance. If more than 13,000 military personnel are involved, countries in the exercise should allow international observers to observe. “That’s normal behavior. It’s completely different this time,” the US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The information came a day after President Alexander Lukashenko said that Russian troops and equipment have begun to arrive in Belarus, ready to participate in the “Allied Determination” exercise lasting until January 20. The combat drills will take place in western Belarus, bordering NATO’s two countries, Poland and Lithuania, as well as the southern region bordering Ukraine .
President Lukashenko added that the exercise was aimed at dealing with the deployment of Ukrainian troops near the border. He also said that Poland and the Baltic states are deploying more than 30,000 troops to the country.
Tensions between Russia and the West recently escalated after the US, NATO said Russia sent about 70,000-100,000 troops close to the border with Ukraine, expressing concern that the country could launch an all-out war. Russia denies that it intends to attack Ukraine, insisting that all military moves on its western border are purely for defensive purposes.
Western countries have repeatedly warned Russia that it will “pay dearly” or “suffer pain” if it attacks Ukraine in any way. The Kremlin meanwhile asks the West not to cross Russia’s red lines and tolerance thresholds.
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