Lithuanian paper Respublika is summarised in English by Ria Novosti on the possibility of a nuclear defence link between Russia and Belarus.
The media are quoting Belarusian political analysts as saying that Washington is violating the 2004 Budapest memo under which signatories may not impose sanctions against Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan; this violation could provoke Minsk into a renouncement of nuclear neutrality. "Experts are emphasizing that this does not mean that Belarus will go nuclear. But Minsk will receive a legal opportunity to host Russian nuclear weapons on its territory. Now, if the United States toughens its economic sanctions, Belarus will be able not only to use this 'nuclear right,' but also to demand that Russia should extend such a guarantee to all members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization." (Respublika, March 29).
In truth, NATO would be hard put to object to such a development without the strong taint of hypocrisy. The United States maintains around 350 nuclear weapons in Europe. A good proportion of those are allocated for the use of nominally non-nuclear NATO states in time of war. Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey all train their air forces for nuclear missions under NATO's nuclear sharing programme. The US stores B61 bombs at these nations air bases andcould hand the weapons over if NATO was attacked.
This Cold War arrangement has been severely criticised at Non-Proliferation Treaty meetings as fundamentally against the treaty obligations of these countries. This is not the first time that Belarus has been suspected of wanting to enter into a similar arrangement with Russia. NATO needs to end nuclear sharing immediately, and look for ways to eliminate the US arsenal in Europe. Then, and only then, could they address this subject from the high ground.