Statement by Ambassador James Kariuki at the UN Security Council meeting on President Putin’s announcement of basing nuclear weapons in Belarus

Ambassador James Kariuki speaks at UN Security Council

Thank you, President, and thank you, High Representative Nakamitsu, for your sobering briefing.

In January 2022, P5 leaders said that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

They also said that, “nuclear weapons – for as long as they continue to exist – should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war.”

Despite this commitment, since the beginning of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, President Putin has used irresponsible nuclear rhetoric.

Let us be clear:

No other country has raised the prospect of nuclear use in this conflict.

No one is threatening Russia’s sovereignty.

It is Russia who has violated the UN Charter by invading another sovereign country.

President Putin’s announcement on 25 March is his latest attempt to intimidate and coerce. This has not worked and will not work. We will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself.

We have heard President Putin’s claim that the trigger for this announcement is the UK supplying depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine alongside Challenger tanks, as it defends itself in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter.

Russia is well aware that this is conventional ammunition – not nuclear munitions. This is yet another example of them deliberately trying to mislead.

We welcome President Xi’s call for the international community to “jointly oppose the use of, or threats to use, nuclear weapons,” and I listen closely to our Chinese colleague today. We also note the Chinese and Russian joint statement that nuclear weapons should not be deployed abroad.

Despite these statements of intent, Russia has steadily undermined the arms control architecture underpinning our collective security. Russia’s persistent violations of the INF Treaty resulted in the Treaty’s collapse in 2019. This year, Russia suspended its participation in New START.

President, President Lukashenko has made no secret of his wish to see Russia base nuclear weapons in Belarus. We urge him to stop enabling Russia’s reckless and escalatory actions.

We will stand firm in our support to the people of Ukraine, and call on Russia to de-escalate; it should start by ceasing its illegal and unprovoked invasion.

Thank you.

Published 31 March 2023