“No reason to doubt” some Russian nukes already in Belarus - U.S. intel officials

“No reason to doubt” some Russian nukes already in Belarus - U.S. intel officials

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has “no reason to doubt” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Russia has moved a first batch of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, senior officials said on Friday.

That’s according to CNN, Ukrinform reports.

Senior DIA officials told a small group of reporters Friday that analysts have “no reason to doubt” Putin’s claims, made last month at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that “the first [Russian] nuclear warheads were delivered to the territory of Belarus,” and no reason to doubt “that they have had some success” in transferring the weapons.

The officials would not disclose why they believe that, only acknowledging that the weapons are difficult for the U.S. intelligence community to track, even through satellite imagery.

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Putin said Russia has about 4,477 deployed and reserve nuclear warheads, including around 1,900 tactical nuclear weapons. It is not clear how much of that arsenal Putin intends to move, and U.S. and Western officials have not publicly confirmed that any weapons have been transferred to Belarus.

US and Western officials said earlier this month that it did not appear that Belarus had finished upgrading the necessary storage facilities to house tactical nuclear weapons. Other sources told CNN, however, that there are various facilities in Belarus, dating back to the Soviet era, that could feasibly house some of the nukes.

Asked last week whether he had seen signs that Russia had moved the weapons, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told CNN that the UK had “seen signs of this progressing” and noted that Putin “doesn’t always lie.” When pressed, however, Wallace also declined to elaborate on the signs he had seen.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller similarly declined to answer questions earlier this month about where the weapons actually are, but he said the U.S. expects Russia to “uphold” its nonproliferation obligations.

Senior DIA officials said they do not believe Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko would have any control over the arsenal. It would most likely be entirely controlled by Russia, the officials said.

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The DIA officials also said they do not believe the movement of the weapons to Belarus would alter the global nuclear landscape or increase the risk of a nuclear incident, because they would be in storage rather than forward deployed, and controlled by Russian forces.

Miller also said the US has “not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture nor any indication Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.”

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