23 February 2019, Saturday, 10:55
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Andrei Sannikov: Russia May Deploy Nuclear Weapons in Belarus

Crazy plans of the Kremlin must be opposed.

On February 2 the United States withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo informs.

According to Mr. Pompeo, Russia is in material breach of the INF Treaty. "Russia's flout of the treaty endangers the lives of Europeans and Americans. We will not stand idle," he said.

Leader of the European Belarus campaign and ex-candidate for the presidency Andrei Sannikov provided comments on the issue to Charter97.org.

- What does the US withdrawal from the treaty mean and what will be consequences of this step?

- First, we should mention the treaty itself. That was the first treaty that actually provided for the elimination of nuclear arsenals of the USA and the USSR, the elimination of an entire class of missiles. It was signed in 1987, came into force in 1988, and both countries took up elimination of their missiles. The USSR and the United States destroyed more than two and a half thousand intermediate- and shorter-range missiles (with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers).

It was a real disarmament, a real de-escalation of tensions in the world. It was the time of confrontation between the two superpowers, and this treaty was the start of a number of nuclear safety-related treaties that were subsequently signed and implemented.

I would not focus on the U.S. withdrawal from this treaty, I would say that the treaty was systematically breached and expired.The Kremlin's to blame. Russia's breaches of the treaty were obvious, and they lasted for several years. The United States could not help but respond to this situation.

- Russian propaganda is now accusing the United States of undermining the Treaty.

- Russian propaganda can claim anything. I was dealing with this treaty in detail, because the territory of Belarus fell within the scope of the treaty. By the way, we had to invest much efforts to ensure our sovereign rights and not to allow the transfer of control over the implementation of the treaty to Russia, which was sought not only by Russia, but also - at some stage - by the United States. By the time of independence, fortunately, this treaty had already been implemented on the territory of our country. All the missiles deployed in Belarus were moved for elimination, mines were destroyed, and home stations were closed.

But I remember, literally since the early 1990s, the moaning of Russian generals and then politicians that the Americans "beat" Russia in negotiations on the intermediate- and shorter-range missiles treaty and forced Russia to destroy the most advanced missiles the Soviet Union had. This moaning gradually became the policy line when Putin came to power.

Russia sought to reestablish the production of missiles which, according to the Kremlin, were technologically more advanced than U.S. ones. It used every reason to do it. Let's take at least the Iskander program, which has been constantly improved and the range of these missiles has been increased. Only the uninitiated can say that the Americans decided to withdraw from the treaty all of a sudden. Specialists monitoring the Russian military industry know that Russia has been persistently pushing the Americans to this.

- How can the termination of the INF treaty influence Belarus?

- Actually, the situation is very hostile. The termination of this treaty jeopardizes the security of Europe. European leaders understand this and, blaming Russia, advocate for its preservation.

This situation jeopardizes security and independence of Belarus, since the agreement on intermediate- and shorter-range missiles, as I have already mentioned, related to the territory of our country, as well as to the territory of Ukraine, Kazakhstan and other states of the former Soviet Union. The fact that Russia has intentionally violated this agreement and triggered its abolition may indicate more aggressive plans of the Kremlin, for example, for deployment of nuclear weapons, including on the territory of Belarus. According to U.S. sources, such hints from Moscow have already been voiced. By the way, Russia has become more active in violating the INF Treaty after 2014, i.e. after Crimean events.

The situation with the treaty under the Lukashenka regime makes us more vulnerable and undermines our security.

- How can we resist this scenario?

- There's one option: to resist Russia's insane plans, which encroaches on our independence, crazy steps of the Kremlin, which undermine our security, changes in the political situation of Belarus are needed.

Belarus should become a truly independent state, not a hostage of Lukashenka's dictatorial clan. To do this, one should take credit for the country's fate, i.e. to get rid of the regime and solve security issues at a completely different level, defending national interests.