Russia Might Put Strategic Nukes in Belarus, Leader Says

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia February 17, 2023. (Reuters)
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia February 17, 2023. (Reuters)
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Russia Might Put Strategic Nukes in Belarus, Leader Says

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia February 17, 2023. (Reuters)
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia February 17, 2023. (Reuters)

Russian strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed to Belarus along with part of Russia's tactical nuclear arsenal, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that his country intended to deploy tactical, comparatively short-range and small-yield nuclear weapons in Belarus.

The strategic nuclear weapons such as missile-borne warheads that Lukashenko mentioned during his state-of-the nation address would pose an even greater threat, if Moscow moves them to the territory of its neighbor and ally.

Belarus was a staging ground for Russian troops to launch their invasion of Ukraine a little over 13 months ago. Lukashenko, in office since 1994, delivered his annual address amid escalating tensions over the conflict in Ukraine.

Both he and Putin have alleged that Western powers want to ruin Russia and Belarus.

“Putin and I will decide and introduce here, if necessary, strategic weapons, and they must understand this, the scoundrels abroad, who today are trying to blow us up from inside and outside," the Belarusian leader said. “We will stop at nothing to protect our countries, our state and their peoples.”

“We will protect our sovereignty and independence by any means necessary, including through the nuclear arsenal,” Lukashenko said. “Don’t say we will just be looking after them, and these are not our weapons. These are our weapons and they will contribute to ensuring sovereignty and independence.”

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was forced to leave Belarus under official pressure after challenging Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election that the opposition and the West, denounced Lukashenko's push for Russian nuclear weapons as a betrayal of national interests.

“The deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus put the lives of Belarusians in serious danger and turns our country into a potential target for strikes, including nuclear strikes at the whim of the two dictators,” Tsikhanouskaya told The Associated Press.

Earlier in the address, Lukashenko called for a ceasefire in Ukraine.

A truce must be announced without any preconditions, and all movement of troops and weapons must be halted, he said.

Belarus and Russia have intensified their military cooperation since the start of the Ukraine war. Moscow has kept its troops and weapons in Belarus, although no Belarusian troops have participated in the fighting.

Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan all relinquished Soviet nuclear weapons, which were left on their territories after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Under the so-called Budapest Memorandum that accompanied giving up the weapons, Russia, the United States and Britain agreed to respect the territorial integrity of those countries.

Ukraine has repeatedly complained that Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the 2022 invasion violate that agreement.

Lukashenko said Friday that he did not want to lose his country's nuclear weapons but was pressured into doing so by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Speaking about the possible deployment of Russian strategic nuclear weapons to Belarus in Friday's speech, Lukashenko said that a week ago he ordered his military to immediately put the former base for Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles in order to make it ready for use. “It's a highly technologically sophisticated structure,” he said.

“All the infrastructure has been created and is standing ready,” Lukashenko declared. “I'm sure that those measures will help sober up all those hawks across the ocean and their satellites for a long time ahead and force them to reckon with our people if they don't understand different language.”



Biden Pushes His ‘Blue Wall’ Sprint with a Michigan Trip as He Makes the Case for His Candidacy

 President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop at Garage Grill & Fuel Bar in Northville, Mich., Friday July 12, 2024. (AP)
President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop at Garage Grill & Fuel Bar in Northville, Mich., Friday July 12, 2024. (AP)
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Biden Pushes His ‘Blue Wall’ Sprint with a Michigan Trip as He Makes the Case for His Candidacy

 President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop at Garage Grill & Fuel Bar in Northville, Mich., Friday July 12, 2024. (AP)
President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop at Garage Grill & Fuel Bar in Northville, Mich., Friday July 12, 2024. (AP)

Four years ago, candidate Joe Biden stood before supporters at a Detroit high school, flanked by Kamala Harris and other rising Democratic stars, and called himself a bridge to the next generation of leaders.

Biden, now a president seeking reelection, returns to that same high school Friday with many in his party now pleading for him to fulfill that very promise and step aside. But Biden remains defiant that he'll remain in the race despite a disastrous debate performance that triggered a wave of calls for him to end his candidacy.

During a news conference Thursday, when asked why he no longer considered himself a “bridge” to the next generation of leaders, Biden responded that “what changed was the gravity of the situation I inherited in terms of the economy, foreign policy, and domestic division."

“We've never been here before,” Biden continued. “And that's the other reason why I didn't, you say, hand off to another generation. I gotta finish the job.”

In the two weeks since his debate debacle, Biden and his team have been on a relentless sprint to convince fretting lawmakers, nervous donors and a skeptical electorate that at the age of 81, he is still capable of being president. But a spate of travel to battleground states, interviews with journalists and a rare solo news conference have done little to tamp down the angst within the party about Biden's candidacy and his prospects against Donald Trump in November.

So far, one Democratic senator and roughly 20 House Democrats have publicly called on Biden to step aside. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has indicated Biden still has a decision to make on whether to run, even though the president has made it clear he remains in the race.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries met privately with Biden after the press conference, sharing the “full breadth” of views from the House Democrats about the path forward in the president’s campaign for reelection, he said in a letter to colleagues.

Biden spent the hours before he left for Michigan meeting separately with Asian American and Latino lawmakers, although with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the president was told directly by California Rep. Mike Levin that he should step down as the Democratic nominee, according to three people familiar with that call who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

Still, Biden advisers and aides, largely satisfied with the president's press conference performance Thursday at the conclusion of the NATO summit, are more forcefully urging the reticent factions of the party to move on from the Atlanta debate.

Michael Tyler, a spokesperson for Biden’s campaign, said donations “exploded” Thursday night during the president’s news conference, describing it as a sign that support for the president remains strong “across our coalition.”

“We have close to 40,000 donations last night alone,” Tyler told reporters traveling to Detroit with Biden. He said the donations came in at a clip that was seven times the average.

And South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, one of the president's most influential allies, said in an NBC interview Friday morning that chatter about whether Biden should stay in the race needs to stop.

“The conversation should focus on the record of this administration, on the alternative to his election, and let Joe Biden continue to make his own decisions about his future,” Clyburn said. “He's earned that right. And I'm going to give him that much respect.”

Biden's campaign has indirectly acknowledged that Biden's route to the White House is narrowing, saying the so-called “blue wall” of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania is now the “clearest pathway” to victory even while insisting other battleground states like Arizona and Nevada are not out of reach.

That strategy is reflected in how Biden is redoubling his efforts in the Midwestern states, hitting Detroit nearly one week after he campaigned in Madison, Wisconsin; Philadelphia; and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Rallying enthusiasm in Detroit and among its sizable Black population could prove decisive for Biden’s chances of winning Michigan, which Biden reclaimed in 2020 after Donald Trump won it in four years prior by just over 10,000 votes.

Before his campaign rally at Detroit’s Renaissance High School, Biden stopped by a local restaurant to speak to a few dozen supporters. And later, he planned to speak about the “Project 2025” agenda, a massive proposed overhaul of the federal government drafted by longtime allies and former officials in the Trump administration.

Trump insists he knows “nothing” about Project 2025, but Biden plans to say it is “run and paid for by Trump people” and it was “built” for the presumptive GOP nominee.

“Folks, Project 2025 is the biggest attack on our system of government and on our personal freedom that has ever been proposed in the history of this country,” Biden will say, according to excerpts released by the campaign. "It’s time for us to stop treating politics like it's entertainment or a reality TV show.

But at a critical juncture when Biden needs to consolidate support, key Democratic leaders in the state will notably be absent at Friday's event.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is co-chair of Biden’s campaign, will be out of the state. Sen. Gary Peters, a steadfast supporter of Biden, and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who is vying for Michigan’s open Senate seat, will also be absent from the event. United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain, whom Biden actively courted during last year’s strikes and who met with him and other union leaders Wednesday, is traveling for a conference.

Rep. Hillary Scholten, who is seeking reelection in a battleground district in western Michigan, joined a growing list of national Democrats who have called on Biden to step aside.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, one of the more prominent Democratic leaders appearing with Biden on Friday, refused to say whether she believed Biden should still be the party’s presidential nominee.

“I’m just focused on making sure people know what’s at stake this year. And know how to exercise their vote,” Benson said when asked whether she still believed he should be the nominee.

But in a swing state that he won by close to 3 percentage points in 2020, Biden continues to command support. Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, Rep. Haley Stevens, Rep. Shri Thanedar and AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler accompanied Biden on Air Force One from Washington to Detroit, in Biden's fourth trip to the state this year. Also planning on attending is Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer. And over a dozen Detroit-area state lawmakers signed onto a joint letter Thursday “to express our unwavering support" for Biden.

As she waited for Biden to arrive at the evening rally, Donna Harper, 71, said she was disappointed by his debate performance, but encouraged by his Thursday press conference.

“Let him just be Joe,” she said. “And I saw more of that last night.”

In his return to Michigan, Biden aims to reignite the energy felt in March 2020 when appearing at Detroit's Renaissance High School. During that appearance, Biden had locked hands with Harris, Whitmer and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

“I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else,” Biden said. “There’s an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.”

In 2016, Trump won Michigan by a thin margin attributed in part to reduced turnout in predominantly Black areas like Detroit’s Wayne County, where Hillary Clinton received far fewer votes than Barack Obama did in previous elections.

Biden reclaimed much of that support four years ago, when he defeated Trump in Michigan by a 154,000-vote margin, but he has work to do. Detroit, which holds a population that is nearly 78% Black, saw a 12% turnout in the Feb. 27 primary, almost half that of the 23% total turnout in the state.

Key parts of Biden’s coalition in Michigan are also upset with him over Israel’s offensive following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. Michigan holds the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the nation, contributing to over 100,000 people voting “Uncommitted” in Michigan’s Democratic primary in February.