Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who has close historical ties with Russia, declined Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko’s offer of nuclear weapons for nations willing “to join the Union State of Russia and Belarus.”
Kazakhstan, which has refused to recognize Vladimir Putin’s annexation of parts of Ukraine, dismissed Lukashenko’s invitation to join the Minsk-Moscow union.
“I appreciated his joke,” he said, according to Kazinform.
Kazakhstan was already a member of a broader Moscow-led trade bloc, the Eurasian Economic Union, and thinks no further integration was necessary.
“As for nuclear weapons, we do not need them,” because Kazakhstan has joined non-proliferation treaties, he said.
“We remain faithful to our obligations within the framework of these international documents.”
Russia and Kazakhstan share a long history of close ties and cooperation. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Astana has been one of Russia’s closest and most reliable allies in the post-Soviet space.
However, it declined to recognize the annexation of Ukraine’s eastern regions by Putin through referendums held there. “Kazakhstan proceeds from the principles of territorial integrity of states, their sovereign equivalence and peaceful coexistence,” it said.
Lukashenko’s announcement was not the first time this year Russia and its allies have engaged in nuclear saber-rattling.
In May of last year, Russia sold Belarus nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missiles.
Earlier this year, Russia pulled out of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty earlier this year, Russia’s last remaining large nuclear arms control agreement with the United States. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the move during his state-of-the-nation address on February 21.
Produced in association with Benzinga
Edited by Alberto Arellano and Sterling Creighton Beard