August 17, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

Belarus would immediately respond to aggression if provoked, including by using nuclear weapons, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview on Thursday, according to state news outlet BelTa. 

“There can be only one threat: aggression against our country. If aggression against our country is launched from the side of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, we will immediately respond with everything we have,” he said. “NATO stands behind Poland, Lithuania, Latvia. We certainly understand that the forces are incomparable.”

Lukashenko reiterated that “the nuclear weapons deployed in Belarus will definitely not be used unless we face aggression.”

“If only an act of aggression is committed against us, an attack against Belarus, we will not tarry, wait and the rest. We will use the entire arsenal of our weapons for deterrence. Why? Belarus is not Russia. Belarus cannot observe and wait for something. There is a great distance between Brest (a city in southwestern Belarus) and Vladivostok (a city in far eastern Russia), but our territory can be captured within a month and there will be nothing left,” he said. 

Lukashenko said that he has publicly approved plans in case of aggression, but he would not specify the contents. “We didn’t bring nuclear weapons here in order to scare someone. Yes, nuclear weapons represent a strong deterring factor. But these are tactical nuclear weapons, not strategic ones. This is why we will use them immediately once aggression is launched against us,” he added. 

Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus and said that Moscow would also construct a special storage facility for the weapons.

The Belarusian president also said Thursday his country would not get directly involved in Russia’s war in Ukraine, unless Ukrainians cross the border.

“If you, Ukrainians, do not cross our border, we will never get involved in this war, in this hot war,” Lukashenko said in the interview. “Yet, we will keep helping Russia — they are our ally,” he added, saying that over 50 countries are helping Ukraine “with coordination, training, ammunition, weapons, and so on” but “only Belarus is openly helping Russia.” 

He called claims that Putin is pushing him to get involved in the war “complete nonsense.”

For context: Belarus helped Russia launch its initial invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, allowing the Kremlin’s troops to enter Ukraine from the north.