Belarus threatened over the weekend that some of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons and a portion of the Kremlin’s tactical nuclear weapons deployed in the country “could be the next step.” Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin raised the possibility of having some of Russia’s nuclear weapons deployed on the Eastern European territory, a probable “next step” in the continuing Ukrainian war if the West continues on its “hostile path.” 

“We will only respond to force with force. Otherwise, they don’t get it in the West,” Khrenin explained. “We are already preparing the sites that we have.”

Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine all had Soviet nuclear weapons on their soil but turned them over to Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Belarusian air force crews finished conducting tactical nuclear weapons drills last weekend, backed by Russia in its plan to deploy the weapons to its ally Belarus amid fighting in neighboring Ukraine, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The defense ministry sent a video release of an interview with a Belarusian pilot, saying that the Russia-based training course provided the Belarusian air force with Su-25 ground attack jets and the necessary skills to operate the weapons. Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Moscow intended to station some tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. It was yet another attempt by the Kremlin leader to use the atomic threat to deter Western support for Ukraine.