Russia on Saturday rejected US President Joe Biden's criticism of Moscow's plan to deploy tactical nukes in Belarus, saying Washington has been deploying tactical nukes in Europe for decades.
Russia declared on Thursday that it was pushing for the first deployment of such weapons outside its borders since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko said the weapons were already underway.
Biden reacted "extremely negative" on Friday to reports that Russia has gone ahead with a plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. The US State Department denounced the Russian nuclear deployment plan.
"It is the sovereign right of Russia and Belarus to ensure their security by whatever means we deem necessary in the midst of a full-scale hybrid war unleashed by Washington against us," the Russian embassy in the United States said in a statement.
"The measures we take are fully consistent with our international legal obligations."
Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko said Friday that the transfer of Russian tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, a country bordering Ukraine, had begun after an agreement reached with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Lukashenko refused to specify the number of nuclear warheads that his country will receive, but assured that, in addition to having already begun the transfer of this weaponry, he had agreed with President Putin on all the details.
Japan immediately reacted to Putin and Lukashenko's plan by adopting new sanctions against Russia. "The Russian nuclear threat cannot be tolerated," they said.
The United States has said the world faces the gravest nuclear danger since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis because of President Vladimir Putin's remarks during the Ukraine conflict, but Moscow says its position has been misinterpreted.
Putin, who has portrayed the war in Ukraine as a battle for Russia's survival in the face of an aggressive West, has repeatedly warned that Russia, which possesses more nuclear weapons than any other country, will use all means to defend itself.
Tactical nuclear weapons are used for tactical gain on the battlefield and are often of lower power than strategic nuclear weapons designed to destroy American, European, or Russian cities.
The Russian embassy called US criticism of Moscow's planned deployment hypocritical, saying that "Washington could use a little introspection before blaming others."
"The United States has maintained a large arsenal of its nuclear weapons in Europe for decades. Together with its NATO allies, it participates in nuclear arms sharing agreements and trains for scenarios of the use of nuclear weapons against our country."
The United States has deployed nuclear weapons in Western Europe since US President Dwight D Eisenhower authorized their deployment in the Cold War in response to a perceived threat from the Soviet Union. The first US nuclear weapons in Europe were deployed to Britain in 1954.
Much of the detail about the current US deployment is confidential, although the Federation of American Scientists says the US has 100 B61 tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe: in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands.
According to the criteria of The Trust Project