Former U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper posited to Newsmax that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to send a message to the West with his announcement of stationing nukes in Belarus by the summer.
Esper notes to "The Record with Greta Van Susteren" that Putin's statement of Moscow completing a nuclear weapon storage facility in Belarus by July 1 would fall two weeks before a NATO summit slated from July 11 to 12 in Lithuania. Belarus sits adjacent to the north of Ukraine's border, south of Lithuania's, and west of Russia's.
Esper tells Van Susteren that "what [Putin] is trying to do is rattle the nuclear saber."
"This is something we should ... watch closely, but we should not overreact," Esper continues. "I mean, Russia has tactical nuclear weapons — we believe — in Kaliningrad, which is further west in Belarus. Kaliningrad."
"I suspect that Putin is trying to do this not just to scare us, and to kind of rattle people, but the timing of it is curious. It would be just a week or two before the NATO military conference, the annual summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania, in mid-July, so you could see him ramping up the pressure to what should be history an historic summit between the NATO allies."
On Saturday, Putin told the TASS news agency that Moscow would work to construct a nuclear weapon storage facility in Belarus. Putin gave no specific location for the construction of the facility.
"There is nothing unusual here either: firstly, the United States has been doing this for decades," Putin said in regard to building such a facility with allies. "They have long deployed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allied countries."
"We agreed that we will do the same — without violating our obligations, I emphasize, without violating our international obligations on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons."
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