Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said on Thursday that NATO is "waging an undeclared war" against Russia and Belarus.
NATO's military activity has "taken the most aggressive orientation," the alliance is deploying military contingents, building military infrastructure, enhancing training, and increasing reconnaissance activities, Shoygu said, speaking at a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin in Minsk.
In Ukraine, where over 2,000 foreign mercenaries are fighting at Kyiv's side, the situation, in general, is used for NATO expansion, with all efforts spent toward escalating the armed conflict in the region, he added.
NATO's Defender Europe 2023 military drill suggests the participation of countries that are not part of the bloc, the minister noted, stressing that in such circumstances, regular meetings of defense ministers of Russia and Belarus are important.
"This is especially important in the context of the rapid growth of tension, the breakdown of the foundations of strategic stability, and the unprecedented intensification of international confrontation," Shoygu said.
"Belarus has been and remains our loyal ally and reliable partner," he added.
The defense chief also noted that in response to arising challenges, Russia and Belarus focus on training joint groups of armed forces, aimed at improving coordination.
Shoygu said the decision to deploy Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus was made to counter "an extremely sharp escalation and the activity of NATO's joint nuclear missions."
"NATO forces us to take retaliatory measures in the military nuclear sphere," he said.
The minister emphasized that the control over the nuclear weapons and the decision to use them remain with the Russian side.
He noted that in the future, additional measures may be taken to ensure the security of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.
For his part, Khrenin said he expects that the deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus "will be an effective response to the aggressive policy of unfriendly countries," which will make their leadership think about the inadmissibility of further escalation in the region.
Russian and Belarusian defense ministers signed at the meeting an agreement on the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus, which stipulates terms for keeping them in a special storage facility.
- Moscow criticizes Western policies in South Caucasus, Afghanistan
Separately, speaking at a meeting of defense ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in the Belarusian capital, Shoygu praised Armenia's role in the organization, saying its participation in joint training is important.
He accused the West of trying to discredit Moscow's efforts in the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, in order to oust Russia from the region.
"An example of this (attempts to push Russia from South Caucasus) is the so-called 'civil' mission of the EU in Armenia, which includes military personnel and employees of intelligence services. I think there is no need to explain what they really do," he noted.
He also warned about a threat from another direction -- Afghanistan, where the illegal armed groups strengthened their positions.
"We believe that the US intends to use the potential of these terrorist organizations to destabilize the situation in the region. ... In the future, their penetration into neighboring countries is possible, in particular for the commission of terrorist acts," he said.
Instead of working on the restoration of Afghanistan, NATO countries are seeking to restore their military presence in the Central Asian region, which is "a direct threat" to stability for the CSTO and the entire Central Asian space, Shoygu stressed.