WARSAW — Less than a week after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said he would position nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, the Belarusian president on Friday joined his close ally in raising the prospect of nuclear war in an apparent attempt to pressure the West to back away from its support for Ukraine.
Because of the conflict in Ukraine, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko said, “a third world war loomed on the horizon with nuclear fires.”
In his annual address to Belarusian legislators and other members of the country’s political elite, Mr. Lukashenko repeated his oft-made claim, without evidence, that the West, particularly neighboring Poland, was gearing up to attack his country.
“They are trying to drag Belarus into the war,” Mr. Lukashenko said. “Our neighbors are especially zealous. You can’t hide these facts.”
Mr. Putin has repeatedly raised the specter of using nuclear weapons since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a prospect that many analysts view as bluster aimed at igniting fear and putting pressure on Western leaders to halt the delivery of arms to Ukraine.
Belarus is almost entirely dependent on Russia for economic, political and security assistance. Mr. Lukashenko relied on Moscow’s help to crush nationwide protests after he was re-elected to a sixth term in 2020, in what international observers have widely described as a sham election.
Mr. Lukashenko allowed Russia’s military to use Belarus as a staging ground for the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. But he has so far refrained from sending his own soldiers into Ukraine to help Russia directly on the battlefield.
Pointing to increased military spending by Poland, a NATO member, and what he said were other threats from the West, Mr. Lukashenko said he had “intensified negotiations” with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia over “the return of nuclear weapons to Belarus.”
The country inherited a stock of Soviet warheads after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union but agreed to give them up before Mr. Lukashenko took power in 1994. At the time, Mr. Lukashenko said that Belarus never should have agreed to hand over the warheads and declared itself a non-nuclear state.
Mr. Lukashenko has since blown hot and cold over nuclear weapons, changing his position depending on the state of relations with the West. His efforts at outreach to the West collapsed in 2020 after the disputed election and the ensuing protests.
Mr. Lukashenko has returned to his position from the early 1990s that Belarus needs nuclear warheads from Moscow for its own security.
“I am not trying to intimidate, blackmail anyone,” Mr. Lukashenko said on Friday. “I want to secure the Belarusian state and ensure peace for the Belarusian people.”
Mr. Putin, in an interview broadcast on Russian state television last Sunday, said that 10 Belarusian warplanes have already been retrofitted to carry Russian nuclear weapons, and that a storage facility for the warheads would be ready by July 1.