In a joint letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia have expressed their concerns over the presence of Wagner Group mercenaries in Belarus. The leaders warn that this development could potentially lead to a loss of control over Russian nuclear weapons. These concerns come in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement in June that nuclear missiles would be deployed to Belarus between July 7 and 8.
The letter, published just days before the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius scheduled for July 11-12, emphasizes the threat posed by the Wagner troops to Belarus’ stability. Presidents Gitanas Nauseda, Andrzej Duda, and Egils Levits stressed that the deepening military cooperation between Moscow and Minsk not only jeopardizes regional security but also poses a risk to the entire Euro-Atlantic area. They also pointed out that Russia has previously used Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine.
The presidents highlighted the recent deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus as an escalatory move in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine. They deemed this action a direct threat to the security of their community. The potential arrival of soldiers from the Wagner Group, they warned, could lead to political instability in Belarus, which, in turn, may result in a loss of control over conventional and nuclear weapons.
Furthermore, the leaders expressed concerns that the presence of mercenaries could encourage Belarusian authorities to provoke a new wave of mass migration and create a humanitarian crisis along the EU borders. In light of these pressing issues, the politicians appealed to NATO and its member states for solidarity and unity ahead of the upcoming summit in Vilnius.
The leaders put forth several proposed measures, including a review of nuclear deterrence to adapt to the new realities and an increase in defense spending to exceed 2 percent of GDP. They believe these steps are necessary to counter the evolving threats.
The Wagner Group recently staged a 24-hour mutiny against the Russian Army, which was resolved through the mediation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and his troops were promised safe haven in Belarus, leading to the cessation of their advance toward Moscow. While it was initially agreed that Prigozhin would relocate to Belarus, recent reports suggest that he remains in Russia.
As the situation unfolds, the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia are urging NATO to address these critical security concerns and demonstrate their commitment to countering the threats emanating from Belarus and its connections with Russia.