NATO missiles
Poland has been one of Nato's staunchest allies since joining the alliance in 1999 Reuters/Murad Sezer

The Polish defence ministry has denied that Warsaw was considering asking for access to nuclear weapons through a Nato programme. The denial followed a statement by the country's Deputy Defence Minister Tomasz Szatkowski.

Szatkowski, in an interview with Polsat, had said the Polish government was discussing joining Nato's nuclear sharing programme to improve the country's defences. Under the programme, non-nuclear Nato states can borrow weapons from the US. Poland has been one of Nato's staunchest allies since joining the alliance in 1999.

"Within the defence ministry there is presently no work underway concerning the accession of our country to the Nato nuclear sharing programme," a ministry statement said.

Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey have already hosted similar nuclear weapons under the programme. However, critics say if Poland stations US nuclear weapons, it will make it a potential target of retaliatory strikes by Russia. Igor Korotchenko, the editor-in-chief of the National Defense journal, told RIA Novosti that Poland could not afford to take such a risk.

"First of all, this is a violation of the Russia-Nato Founding Act which bans nuclear weapons on the territories of Nato member-states. And also of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty because in this case the Americans would hand" over nuclear weapons to the Polish military command, which could eventually use them as part of joint military action, Korotchenko said. The US would thus lose control of the weapons as the Polish military could now put them to use at will, he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in June that if Nato threatened Russia, Moscow would be forced to respond. "If someone threatens our territories, it means that we will have to aim our armed forces accordingly at the territories from where the threat is coming. How else could it be? It is Nato that is approaching our borders, it's not like we are moving anywhere."