Bolton issues warning on Russia’s closest ally
Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton has warned that the Biden administration may not be taking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pledge to move tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus seriously enough. Bolton added that he could foresee Russia and Belarus potentially merging into a single state.
“[Putin] may not be bluffing here in the sense he may actually move tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus,” Bolton told CNN on Monday.
Putin announced on Saturday that Russia will move some of its tactical nuclear weapons to facilities in Belarus as early as this summer. The Russian president said that he made the decision after the UK announced it would transfer toxic depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine, a move he described as “absolute recklessness.”
While Bolton is taking Putin’s words seriously, the White House has brushed them off. “We haven’t seen any movement of any tactical nuclear weapons or anything of that kind since this announcement,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday. Anonymous US and EU security officials told Politico they haven’t seen any indication that Russia plans on moving the weapons in the immediate future.
Bolton’s concerns go beyond the stationing of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus. He told CNN that the possibility of Russia reabsorbing the entire territory of Belarus is “something I don’t think we’ve been paying enough attention to.”
Belarus was made a territory of the Russian Empire by Catherine the Great in the 18th century, and was subsequently united with Russia under the Soviet Union. Since declaring its independence from the USSR in 1990, Belarus has remained a close ally of Russia, with Minsk and Moscow signing the Union State treaty in 1999, establishing a customs union and granting each other’s citizens freedom of movement.
Military cooperation between the two states has since deepened, with a 2021 doctrine establishing a joint group of forces stationed in Belarus to deter threats from the West. Russian and Belarusian troops have held multiple military drills since last year, and Russian forces pushed south into Ukraine from Belarusian territory last February. As a result, Belarus has been hit with many of the same Western sanctions as Russia.
Bolton is well known for advocating regime change and military intervention around the world, and last year called for the overthrow of Putin. However, he has persistently warned about the consequences of current US foreign policy. Before cautioning about the growing ties between Russia and Belarus, he warned earlier this month that “the Chinese, the Russians, Iran, North Korea and several others are moving to shore up their relations” amid an apparent lack of strategic objectives in Washington.