Nato has said Russia’s plan to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus is “dangerous and irresponsible”.
The transatlantic alliance is “vigilant”, a spokeswoman said, a day after President Vladimir Putin announced the plan. He said Moscow will complete the construction of a storage facility for tactical warheads in Belarus by the beginning of July.
Ukraine has sought an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the Kremlin’s plan, and said the move amounts to “nuclear blackmail”.
Mr Putin responded to critics by comparing the move to the US basing part of its nuclear arsenal on the territory of its European allies.
Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu on Sunday said the western allies had not yet “seen any changes in Russia's nuclear posture that would lead us to adjust our own”.
“Russia's nuclear rhetoric is dangerous and irresponsible. Nato is vigilant, and we are closely monitoring the situation,” she said.
“Russia's reference to Nato's nuclear sharing is totally misleading. Nato allies act with full respect of their international commitments.
“Russia has consistently broken its arms control commitments, most recently suspending its participation in the New START Treaty.”
Last month Mr Putin said that Moscow would suspend participation in the New START treaty, the last nuclear arms control pact between Russia and the US.
Nato has urged Moscow to return to compliance with the pact “in good faith”.
‘Another provocative step’
The Ukrainian government was critical of Mr Putin’s nuclear arrangement with Minsk, with the Foreign Ministry describing it as “another provocative step” by Moscow that undermines “the international security system as a whole”.
“Russia once again confirms its chronic inability to be a responsible steward of nuclear weapons as a means of deterrence and prevention of war, not as a tool of threats and intimidation,” the ministry said.
Kyiv demanded a UN Security Council session and called on the Group of Seven (G7) countries and the EU to warn Belarus of “far-reaching consequences” if it decides to accept the Russian weapons.
Mr Putin said his vision would not violate nuclear non-proliferation promises and Russia would not hand off control of the weapons to Belarus, a leading ally.
In his announcement broadcast on state television, he said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had requested the stationing of the weapons. Minsk has not yet commented publicly on Mr Putin's announcement.
The Belarusian army has not formally fought in Ukraine, but Minsk allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine last year.
In a statement, the Ukrainian government said it called on all members of the international community to convey to Mr Putin’s government “the categorical unacceptability of its next nuclear provocations and to take decisive measures to effectively deter and prevent any possibility of the aggressor state's use of nuclear weapons.”