VILNIUS - Russia would be in breach of the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, if it were to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus, Kestutis Budrys, the Lithuanian president's senior adviser on national security issues, says.
"Experts and lawyers disagree on whether this would be a violation of the NPT. In my opinion, it would be a violation of the NPT on the part of Russia," Budrys told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Tuesday.
The NPT treaty was signed in 1968 and has been ratified by 190 countries.
Russia's behavior will have consequences not only around NATO's eastern wing as other nuclear-armed countries may decide to follow its suit, Budrys said.
Last Saturday, Russian president Vladimir Putin said he would deploy tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, its ally, saying that the deployment would act just like the United States that stores such weapons in bases in the territories of its allies.
Budrys says one should not view this move as mere propaganda as both Belarus and Russia were preparing for this step both legally and politically.
"This is serious," the presidential advisor said.
On the other hand, he said, one should not "overreact" to such reports because subtlety is important in nuclear rhetoric.
"We should not forget that NATO is also a nuclear alliance with its own deterrence strategies and policies," Budrys said. "This is an area of great sensitivity and responsibility. (...) This is quite new for Lithuania, such topics as nuclear security, which has to do with armaments, deterrence and so on. Well, we have to learn how to navigate properly here too."
The situation sends a message that NATO's conventional forces in the region need to be increased, he said.
Speaking with the public radio LRT on Tuesday, Lithuania's National Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said Putin's statements "have not scared anyone for a long time".
"In this case, it's a frightening political message to Western societies. But, of course, it should be followed by the West's response in the form of even broader sanctions," the minister said.