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The suggestion that Ukraine should have kept its Soviet-era nuclear weapons is a counterfactual fantasy that groans under the weight of its technical, political and strategic assumptions.
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Fantasy Counterfactual: A Nuclear-Armed
Maria Rost Rublee
Published online: 20 Mar 2015.
To cite this article: Maria Rost Rublee (2015) Fantasy Counterfactual: A Nuclear-Armed Ukraine, Survival:
Global Politics and Strategy, 57:2, 145-156
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‘If only Ukraine had kept its nuclear weapons, this would never have hap-
pened.’ The counterfactual heard around the world after Russia annexed
Crimea in March 2014 makes intuitive sense. When the Soviet Union col-
lapsed in 1991, Ukraine became the world’s third-largest nuclear power
(behind Russia and the United States), with approximately 1,900 strategic
and 2,500 tactical nuclear weapons.1 Surely Russia would not pick a ght
with such a well-armed adversary? This common wisdom has surfaced in
numerous articles in the popular press, with the argument that Washington’s
non-proliferation eorts in the early 1990s have come back to haunt the
West.2 Academics, such as Eric Posner and John Mearsheimer, have joined
the recent chorus.3 Mearsheimer – who argued soon after the Soviet Union’s
collapse that Ukraine should have kept the nuclear weapons left on its ter-
ritory – asserted last March that ‘if Ukraine had a real nuclear deterrent, the
Russians would not be threatening to invade it’.4
This counterfactual, however, is a fantasy; it groans under the weight of
numerous technical, political and strategic assumptions – many of which are
questionable, and some of which are simply wrong. We should not be asking,
‘If the Ukraine of today had a second-strike nuclear capability, would Russia
have invaded Crimea?’ Instead, the question should be: ‘What would have hap-
pened to Ukraine if it had insisted on keeping Soviet nuclear weapons, being
able to maintain and modernise them, as well as being able to maintain and
Fantasy Counterfactual: A
Nuclear-Armed Ukraine
Maria Rost Rublee
Maria Rost Rublee is a Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University. Her first book, Nonproliferation
Norms: Why States Choose Nuclear Restraint (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2009), won the Alexander
George Book Award for best book in political psychology.
Survival | vol. 57 no. 2 | April–May 2015 | pp. 145–156 DOI 10.1080/00396338.2015.1026091
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146 | Maria Rost Rublee
modernise a second-strike delivery capability?’ As Ramesh Thakur has argued,
Ukraine and its diplomatic relationships would have evolved so dierently
that ‘the deterrent claim for the events of 2014 simply cannot be constructed
as a credible counter-factual narrative’.5 In addition, I contend, if Ukraine had
aempted to keep the Soviet nuclear arsenal for its own military purposes,
Crimea most likely would have been annexed by Russia long before 2014.
Technical inadequacies
The nuclear-Ukraine counterfactual is packed with multiple technical
assumptions: Ukraine could have used the Soviet nuclear weapons; Ukraine
could have maintained and modernised the Soviet nuclear weapons;
Ukraine could have maintained and modernised the Soviet delivery vehi-
cles. Most experts concur (though some disagreement remains) that in time,
Ukrainian scientists could have found a way to rewrite the launch codes and
alter targeting guidance to gain operational control of the nuclear weapons
themselves.6 The other two assumptions, however, are more problematic.
Maintaining and modernising Soviet nuclear weapons would have
taken not only large, expensive investments over a period of time, but also
foreign assistance. While Kiev had possession of almost 4,500 warheads, it
had no experience in, or facilities for, servicing and modernising them. The
weapons were brought fully operational to Ukraine, and maintenance had
to be performed by Soviet scientists. As a high-level Russian ocial noted,
Operational maintenance of nuclear munitions is a complex of sophisticated
operations. Emergency operational maintenance of nuclear munitions must be
performed at the manufacturer’s site. Formerly, the maintenance of munitions
was controlled from one center, which was at one of the main directorates of
the Defense Ministry of the Soviet Union, and later Russia. However, once the
Strategic Forces stationed on its territory were under Ukrainian control, this
threw the nuclear munitions maintenance into confusion.7
Many of the warheads would have reached the end of their service life
within ten years, and the country had no ability to refurbish or modernise
them.8 In particular, Ukraine did not have any source of tritium gas, which
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Fantasy Counterfactual: A Nuclear-Armed Ukraine | 147
has a short half-life of approximately 12 years and thus must be replaced on
a regular basis if warheads are to stay reliable. Because no member states
of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) were likely to violate their
treaty obligations by providing Ukraine with tritium, Kiev would then have
been forced to rely on the nuclear black market for an essential part of its
nuclear-weapons programme. Ukraine also did not have many other critical
items required for an indigenous military nuclear programme, including a
uranium-enrichment facility, a plutonium-reprocessing plant, a warhead-
fabrication facility and nuclear-weapons design expertise.9 While the
country could have eventually gained the technical expertise and materials
needed to obtain these items, the price tag – both economic and diplomatic
– would have been exorbitant, especially for a newly independent country.
Ukraine also lacked a nuclear test site, so in the absence of Soviet test data
and without the ability to conduct tests itself, it would not have been able to
modernise its nuclear warheads. As Steven Pifer notes, At enormous cost,
Ukraine might have maintained a small number of weapons for a time, but
their reliability and safety would have come under increasing doubt.’10
Maintaining delivery vehicles would also have been dicult and costly.
Like the warheads, many of the intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)
were due to reach the end of their service life within ten years, and Ukraine
did not have the capability to maintain them. Specically, Ukraine had inher-
ited 130 SS-19 and 46 SS-24 ICBMs.11 The SS-19s were built in and maintained
from Russian facilities, and the SS-24 missiles used solid fuel, which Ukraine
did not have the capability to service or modernise.12 Each of the 46 SS-24
ICBMs carried ten warheads, each with a yield of 440 kilotons, for a total of
460 nuclear weapons – and a total yield of over 200 megatons.13 By compari-
son, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of 15 kilotons. As one expert
argued, ‘By the winter of 1997–98, the SS-24s would have decayed to the point
where they would have been no longer ... serviceable, turning them into a
stockpile of extremely dangerous scrap metal and radioactive material.’14
While Ukraine also hosted strategic bombers, with an unknown number of
gravity bombs, no more than ten of the bombers were functional.15 Because of
the lack of debate between Moscow and Kiev over the gravity bombs, it can
probably be assumed that their number was very low.
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148 | Maria Rost Rublee
Political–military risks
The political and military assumptions in the nuclear-Ukraine counterfac-
tual range from questionable to fanciful. The rst assumption, and the most
implausible, is that Russia would have permied Ukraine to keep its inher-
ited nuclear weapons. Moscow had no intention of allowing Ukraine to do so.
While the Russians argued that tolerating a nuclear Ukraine would violate
their NPT obligations not to transfer nuclear weapons to another state, they
also could not abide Ukraine accruing the military and diplomatic lever-
age that the world’s third-largest arsenal would bring – especially given the
recent collapse of the Soviet Union and, correspondingly, of Russian pres-
tige.16 For example, the Russians shut down gas exports to Ukraine several
times between 1992 and 1994, and at one point threatened to permanently
halt gas supply unless Kiev met a number of demands, including the return
of all nuclear weapons to Russia.17
More importantly, Russians could not permit the country that controlled
Crimea to have a workable nuclear deterrent. Had Ukraine aempted to
retain and develop a nuclear arsenal, it is likely that Moscow would have
invaded Crimea before the country could secure a second-strike capability.
Crimea is not simply a part of Ukrainian territory that Russia decided to
annex. Rather, Russians – both elites and the populace – view Crimea, and
the port city of Sevastopol in particular, as a revered part of their country.
Russia’s ties to Crimea began more than a millennium ago, as historian
Orlando Figes notes:
Crimea is vitally important to the Russians. According to medieval
chronicles, it was in Khersonesos – the ancient Greek colonial city on the
south-western coast of Crimea, just outside Sevastopol – that Vladimir, the
Grand Prince of Kiev, was baptised in 988, thereby bringing Christianity
to Kievan Rus’, the kingdom from which Russia derives its religious and
national identity.18
By the 1400s, the Crimean Tatars ruled Crimea; this group had emerged out
of intermarriage between the Golden Horde, which swept through the region
in the thirteenth century, and the Ooman Turks. But the 1783 conquest of
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Fantasy Counterfactual: A Nuclear-Armed Ukraine | 149
Crimea by Catherine the Great returned the region to Russia and gave the
country its rst warm-water port. The peninsula took on even greater import
for Russians after the Crimean War, when Russian forces held o a Western
siege of Sevastopol for 11 months, from September 1854 to August 1855. Leo
Tolstoy’s Sevastopol Sketches immortalised the bale for the public, presenting
the defence of Sevastopol ‘as a story of the suering, sacrice and heroism of
the common people – rank-and-le sailors, soldiers and civilians’.19
Crimea only became part of Ukraine in 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev
transferred it to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic ostensibly in com-
memoration of the 300th anniversary of the ‘reunication of Ukraine with
Russia’.20 At the time, the transfer raised no concerns as Ukraine was part
of the Soviet Union and had been seen as ‘Lile Russia’, rather than its own
nation, for centuries.21
When Ukraine gained independence in 1991, with legal claim to Crimea,
the Russian reaction was intense. Not only did Ukraine now control
Sevastopol, home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, but many Russians felt as
though part of their country had been sheared o. The Russian parliament
took a host of measures, including aempting to use a 1948 Soviet decree
that Sevastopol was a federal city, to claim both their ‘city of glory’ and
Crimea more generally.22 The parliament also passed a resolution in May
1992 declaring the 1954 transfer illegitimate.23 Numerous senior gures,
including then-President Boris Yeltsin, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev,
and Admiral Igor Kasatonov – not to mention members of the public –
called for Sevastopol and Crimea to be returned to Russia.24 In 1994, Russia
began issuing passports to residents of Crimea, stopping only at the direct
request of Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma.25
At the time of independence, moreover, Crimea as a region was cultur-
ally Russian, rather than Ukrainian. One scholar noted in 1993:
At present, there is not a single Ukrainian-language school in Crimea for
its 626,000 Ukrainians. Ukrainian-language broadcasts on local television
and radio are limited to ten and twenty minutes weekly, respectively;
and the region’s main newspaper, Krymskaya pravda, ceased publishing in
Ukrainian in September 1991.26
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150 | Maria Rost Rublee
Unsurprisingly, Russian separatist movements caused instability in
Crimea for several years, starting shortly after Ukrainian independence.
Although the movements had organic roots, they were heavily supported
by Moscow.27 Even after the nuclear issue was seled, experts predicted
violent conict over Crimea. With the peninsula’s structural predisposition
towards regional conict, some commentators even argued that Russian
annexation would be preferable to the expected continuing instability.28
Thus, given the military necessity and cultural longing for Sevastopol, com-
bined with the ethnic powder keg in Crimea, it is likely that Moscow would
have intervened immediately or in the medium term in Crimea if Ukraine
had declared it intended to keep the Soviet nuclear arsenal.29 Because generat-
ing its own useable nuclear force from the Soviet weapons – not to mention
a second-strike capability would have taken years, Ukraine would have
been vulnerable to Russian invasion. Given the fact that the United States and
Europe were placing heavy pressure on Ukraine to give up the Soviet nuclear
arsenal, a nuclear-weapons-seeking Kiev would not have gained much sym-
pathy from the West in the event of Russian annexation of Crimea.
The second political–military assumption hidden within the counter-
factual of a nuclear-armed Ukraine is that the United States would have
tolerated Ukrainian retention of the Soviet nuclear weapons. At the time,
Washington had several urgent nuclear-related goals of its own that were
contingent on Kiev giving them up. Steven Pifer explains:
Achieving [Ukrainian denuclearisation] was seen as key to implementing
the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) signed in July 1991
by President George H. W. Bush and then-Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev, just months before the Soviet Union broke up, especially after
Russia conditioned START I’s entry into force on Belarus, Kazakhstan
and Ukraine rst acceding to the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-
nuclear weapons states. Washington also regarded Ukrainian agreement
to eliminate the nuclear weapons on its territory as critical for broader
nonproliferation objectives, including the Clinton administration’s goal
of achieving an indenite extension of the NPT at the 1995 review and
extension conference.30
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Fantasy Counterfactual: A Nuclear-Armed Ukraine | 151
START II had also just been signed, in early 1993 – but it would not enter
into force until START I was fully implemented. US policymakers were
impatient for this happen, because of the treaty’s value in banning desta-
bilising multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) and
heavy ICBMs.31 More generally, even tacit US acceptance of Ukraine as a
nuclear power would have introduced serious complications into America’s
new and delicate relationship with its former Russian adversary. Finally,
the United States would not have relished the fallout to Western European
alliance politics that would have been stirred up by a new nuclear power
with more than ten times the arsenal of Britain or France.
Another improbable assumption of the counterfactual is that a nuclear-
armed Ukraine would resemble the Ukraine of today: a country that has
improved on numerous human-development indicators, with a mesh of
economic and diplomatic ties to the West. Since its independence in 1991,
Ukraine’s GDP per capita has more than doubled; poverty, inequality and
child mortality have declined; and maternal-health outcomes and access
to primary and secondary education have improved.32 These gains have
been hard-fought; during the rst several years after independence, the
economy contracted and the country entered a serious recession.33 Since
1991, Ukraine has received over $30 billion in foreign aid from Europe and
the United States.34
The idea that Ukraine would have had the money to spend on a nuclear-
weapons programme, let alone diverted precious funds from basic services
at a time of political instability, is far-fetched. In defending his government’s
decision to nalise its rejection of nuclear weapons and join the NPT, then-
president Kuchma argued that the country should not have to sell or pawn all
of its property just to have nuclear weapons. Kuchma, who once managed a
missile-production factory in Ukraine under the Soviets, estimated that a fully
operational nuclear arsenal would take at least ten years and cost between
$160bn and $200bn.35 In comparison, over those same ten years, public spend-
ing on education and health amounted to approximately $60bn.36 While
Ukraine is often criticised for failing to live up to its economic potential,
its situation surely would have been worse had $160bn been diverted for a
nuclear arsenal. In addition, the massive aid from Europe and America likely
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152 | Maria Rost Rublee
would not have materialised for a country outing non-proliferation norms.
It is hard to see how the Ukrainian government could have survived not only
the external pressure, but also domestic pressure, in spending billions on the
nuclear programme. In the end, Ukraine may have devolved into an unstable
rogue state in its aempt to maintain and modernise its nuclear weapons.37
Strategic unreliability
Even if, against all odds, Ukraine had managed to keep the Soviet weapons
and fashion some sort of a nuclear deterrent – without falling apart as a state
– the counterfactual still makes a questionable strategic assumption: that its
nuclear capability would have deterred Russia from annexing Crimea. (As
noted earlier, Russia most likely would have claimed Crimea earlier, but for
argument’s sake this judgement can be put on hold.)
While conventional wisdom has it that nuclear-armed states do not ght one
another, the reality is that nuclear weapons do not always deter conventional
war. The 1999 Kargil conict between nuclear Pakistan and India is a prime
example; in fact, press reports indicate that Pakistani generals believed their
nuclear weapons provided a shield against Indian retaliation, thus spurring
their aggressive behaviour.38 The 1973 Egyptian invasion of Israeli-held Sinai,
and the 1982 Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, are further examples
of scenarios in which nuclear weapons did not deter a conventional aack.
More than one expert has argued that Ukrainian nuclear weapons would
similarly have failed to deter Russia from reclaiming Crimea.39 Additionally,
one must ask whether Kiev would have been willing to play nuclear ‘chicken’
with Moscow over Crimea, when its cultural and historical connections to
the peninsula are so much more tenuous than Russia’s.40 Another possibil-
ity is that, rather than deterring the conict, a nuclear dimension may have
emboldened Kiev, making the crisis more dangerous and unstable.41
* * *
The counterfactual of a nuclear-armed Ukraine is too implausible to
accept. Unfortunately, its wide and casual acceptance – including by those
who should know beer – is undermining the perceived value of nuclear
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Fantasy Counterfactual: A Nuclear-Armed Ukraine | 153
non-proliferation and disarmament. By broadcasting the false notion that
Ukraine could have still progressed economically and diplomatically
while bearing the weighty nancial and political burdens of a nuclear
arsenal, proponents of the counterfactual inate the benets of nuclear
weapons while almost completely minimising their costs. Unpacking
and examining the multiple assumptions hidden within this argument,
therefore, is crucial. Indeed, the Ukraine counterfactual supports, rather
than weakens, the rationale for non-proliferation and disarmament. This
is the value of a full public examination of the costs that the Ukrainian
state, its society and its international standing would have incurred by
holding onto Soviet nuclear weapons: it will show that Kiev’s decision,
more than 20 years ago, was the right one.
The author would like to thank the Heinrich Böll Stiftung for its nancial
support of this project.
1 William C. Poer, ‘The Politics of
Nuclear Renunciation: The Cases of
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine’,
Occasional Paper no. 22, Henry
L. Stimson Center, April 1995,
p. 8, hp://
2 Blake Fleetwood, ‘Too Bad Ukraine
Didn’t Keep Its 2,000 Nuclear
Weapons’, Hungton Post, 30 April
2014, hp://
didnt-kee_b_5235374.html. See also
Benne Ramberg, ‘Ukraine Gave
Up Nukes Potential for Defense
Reassurances’, Palm Beach Post,
28 November 2014, hp://www.
and Ted Galen Carpenter, ‘Ukraine
Should Have Kept Its Nukes’, National
Interest, 12 March 2013, hp://
3 Eric Posner, ‘Should Ukraine Have Kept
Its Nuclear Weapons?’, 25 March 2014,
4 For Mearsheimer’s original argument,
see John Mearsheimer, ‘The Case
for a Ukrainian Nuclear Deterrent’,
Foreign Aairs, vol. 72, no. 3, Summer
1993, pp. 50–66. For his comments
in 2014, see Elaine M. Grossman,
‘Should Ukraine Have Goen Rid of
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154 | Maria Rost Rublee
Its Cold War Nukes?’, Global Security
Newswire, 3 March 2014, hp://www.
5 Ramesh Thakur, ‘Ukraine and
Nukes’, Australian Institute of
International Aairs, undated,
6 Poer, ‘The Politics of Nuclear
Renunciation’, p. 44.
7 Yuri Dubinin, ‘Ukraine’s Nuclear
Ambitions: Reminiscences of the
Past’, Russia in Global Aairs, no. 2,
April–June 2004, p. 172, hp://eng.
8 Steven Pifer, ‘The Trilateral Process:
The United States, Ukraine,
Russia, and Nuclear Weapons’,
Arms Control Series Paper, no. 6,
Brookings Institution, May 2011,
p. 7, hp://
9 Poer, ‘The Politics of Nuclear
Renunciation’, p. 3.
10 Steven Pifer, ‘Geing Rid of
Nukes: The Trilateral Statement
at 20 Years’, Brookings Institution,
13 January 2014, hp://www.
11 Poer, ‘The Politics of Nuclear
Renunciation’, p. 8.
12 Pifer, ‘The Trilateral Process’, p. 15.
13 Mykola Riabchuk, ‘Ukraine’s Nuclear
Nostalgia’, World Policy Journal, vol.
26, no. 4, Winter 2009–10, p. 96.
14 Ibid.
15 Poer, ‘The Politics of Nuclear
Renunciation’, p. 8.
16 Dubinin, ‘Ukraine’s Nuclear
Ambitions’, p. 182.
17 Paul J. D’Anieri, Economic
Interdependence in Ukrainian–Russian
Relations (Albany, NY: SUNY Press,
1999), pp. 78–9.
18 Orlando Figes, ‘Putin Needs to Show
More Restraint Than Hero to Avoid a
New Crimean War’, Guardian, 1 March
2014, hp://
19 Serhii Plokhy, ‘The City of Glory:
Sevastopol in Russian Historical
Mythology’, Journal of Contemporary
History, vol. 35, no. 3, July 2000, p. 376.
20 For a discussion of why the Soviets
transferred Crimea to Ukraine, see
Mark Kramer, ‘Why Did Russia Give
Away Crimea Sixty Years Ago?’, Cold
War History Project, Woodrow Wilson
Center, hp://www.wilsoncenter.
21 Roman Solchanyk, ‘The Politics of
State Building: Centre–Periphery
Relations in Post-Soviet Ukraine’,
Europe–Asia Studies, vol. 46, no. 1,
1994, p. 49.
22 Ibid., pp. 57–8. See also Felix Münch,
‘Identity and Conict in Crimea:
Exclavisation Tendencies, Russian
Memory and Ukrainian Statehood
on the Margins of Europe’, paper
presented at the workshop ‘Hard
Memory, Soft Security: Competing
Securitisation of the Legacy of
Communism in Eastern Europe’,
University of Tartu, Estonia,
9–10 December 2011, p. 4, hp://
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Fantasy Counterfactual: A Nuclear-Armed Ukraine | 155
23 Riabchuk, ‘Ukraine’s Nuclear
Nostalgia’, p. 98.
24 See, for example, Solchanyk, ‘The
Politics of State Building’, pp. 47 and
58; and Plokhy, ‘The City of Glory’,
pp. 372–3.
25 Leonid Kuchma, Posle Maydana.
Zapysky prezydenta 2005–2006 (Kiev:
Dovira, 2007), p. 416, cited in Taras
Kuzio, ‘Leonid Kuchma Tells It
Like It Is’, Kyiv Post, 11 May 2012,
26 Solchanyk, ‘The Politics of State
Building’, p. 50.
27 Mariana Budjeryn, ‘Ukraine’s Nuclear
Predicament and the Nonproliferation
Regime’, Arms Control Today,
December 2014, p. 37.
28 Eugene B. Rumer, ‘Eurasia Leer: Will
Ukraine Return to Russia?’, Foreign
Policy, no. 96, Autumn 1994, p. 143.
See also Gwendolyn Sasse, The Crimea
Question: Identity, Transition, and
Conict (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 2007).
29 For a concurring opinion, see
Thomas C. Moore, ‘The Role of
Nuclear Weapons During the Crisis
in Ukraine’, Working Paper, Lugar
Center, 29 July 2014, p. 22.
30 Pifer, ‘The Trilateral Process’, p. 4.
31 Ibid., p. 5.
32 About Ukraine’, UN Development
Programme, hp://
33 Pekka Sutela, The Underachiever:
Ukraine’s Economy Since 1991
(Washington DC: Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace,
2012), pp. 3–4.
34 Carol Matlack, ‘Four Uncomfortable
Truths About Ukraine’, Bloomberg
Businessweek, 20 March 2014,
35 ‘Kuchma Address Parliament on
Accession’, Kiev Radio Ukraine
World Service, 16 November 1994,
cited in Zbigniew Brzezinski and
Paige Sullivan (eds), Russia and the
United States: An Analytical Survey
of Archival Documents and Historical
Studies: Documents, Data and Analysis
(New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1996), p.
275. See also Mary Mycio and Sonni
Efron, ‘Ukraine Agrees to Relinquish
Nuclear Arms’, Los Angeles Times, 7
November 1994, hp://articles.latimes.
nuclear-power. According to Mycio
and Efron, Kuchma also told the Rada,
‘Those caught up in the passions of
false patriotism should remember that
Ukraine can’t make nuclear weapons,
and it can’t even use the warheads it
inherited. Just creating a system for
safely maintaining the weapons it has
would cost $10 billion to $30 billion.’
36 Author’s calculations from World
Bank data, hp://
37 Moore, ‘The Role of Nuclear Weapons
During the Crisis in Ukraine’, pp.
38 See Sco Sagan and Kenneth Wal,
‘The Great Debate: Is Nuclear Zero
the Best Option?’, National Interest,
September–October 2010, p. 94.
39 See, for example, Moore, ‘The Role of
Nuclear Weapons During the Crisis in
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156 | Maria Rost Rublee
Ukraine’, p. 15; and Münch, ‘Identity
and Conict in Crimea’, pp. 5–7.
For a discussion of the inuence of
Ukrainian ideas on its nuclear choices,
see Maria Rost Rublee, Nonproliferation
Norms (Athens, GA: University of
Georgia Press, 2009), p. 15.
40 Sener Akturk, ‘Book Review: Sasse, G.
(2007). The Crimea Question: Identity,
Transition, and Conict. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press’,
Comparative Political Studies, vol. 42,
no. 3, March 2009, p. 465. See also Jane
I. Dawson, ‘Ethnicity, Ideology and
Geopolitics in Crimea’, Communist and
Post-Communist Studies, vol. 30, no. 4,
December 1997, p. 430.
41 See, for example, Moore, ‘The Role of
Nuclear Weapons During the Crisis in
Ukraine’, pp. 25–6.
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... This has been compounded by efforts to revalidate UK nuclear weapons following Russia's annexation of Crimea and the strategic destabilization of Ukraine. The UK then-Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, for example, stated in March 2014 that, "What those events do show is that we have been right throughout in maintaining the need to continue with a strategic nuclear deterrent as the ultimate guarantor of Britain's sovereignty and freedom of action" (Hansard 2014; for a convincing critique of the counter-facts that a nuclear-armed Ukraine would prevent the Russian annexation of Crimea, see Rublee 2015). ...
Full-text available
France and the UK have had different approaches to the possibility of nuclear disarmament; these derive from the different post- Second World War national narratives in which the development of nuclear weapons has been embedded. This started from two different attitudes toward the NATO Alliance and its nuclear component, two different sets of lessons learned from the 1956 Suez crisis (Pelopidas 2015a), and it culminated in two different reactions to the increase in nuclear disarmament advocacy worldwide, which is the focus of this chapter.
... Further, in contrast also to South Africa, which developed its own nuclear weapons, the three post-Soviet states all inherited nuclear arms from another polity and did not possess full nuclear weapons production, maintenance, and employment complexes. By extension, they did not sustain the full array of vested interests-government agencies with nuclear roles and responsibilities, nuclearized branches of the military and intelligence apparatus, producers of nuclear warheads and delivery systems, legislators and businesses eager to protect jobs in the nuclear enterprise, defense think tanks and organizations affiliated with the nuclear complex-that help justify and sustain nuclear possession in mature nuclear states (see Rublee, 2015). However, in contrast to South Africa, where nuclear deterrence was never a salient part of public discourse, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine had been constituent republics of a state that for decades had portrayed nuclear weapons as essential to national security. ...
Full-text available
What might prompt a nuclear-armed state to give up its arsenal? Nuclear disarmament has provided a nominally shared goal for virtually all the world’s states for decades, yet surprisingly little effort has been devoted to systematically theorizing its drivers. This article aims to begin filling this void. I proceed in three steps. First, I discuss the conceptual, material, and ideational features of renunciation to arrive at a rudimentary understanding of what, fundamentally, nuclear disarmament as a political process involves. Second, I scope out the empirical evidence on which a general theory of nuclear renunciation might be based. Third, synthesizing the dominant explanations for the cases discussed in the second part, I outline a basic account of nuclear relinquishment and discuss the compatibility of this account with common assumptions about disarmament practice. I conclude that the best evidence available suggests that adversarial politics and stigmatization are necessary conditions for renunciation.
... South Africa acceded to the NPT in 1991 after making internal plans to voluntarily dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited nuclear arsenals after the Soviet Union's dissolution, but they had limited physical control or access to launch codes and joined the NPT alongside repatriating the weapons to Russia (Mearsheimer 1993;Budjeryn 2015Budjeryn , 2016Rublee 2015). ...
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Horizontal nuclear proliferation presents what is sometimes referred to as the “Nth country problem,” or identifying which state could be next to acquire nuclear weapons. Nuclear fuel cycle technologies can contribute to both nuclear power generation and weapons development. Consequently, observers often view civilian nuclear programs with suspicion even as research on nuclear latency and the technological inputs of proliferation has added nuance to these discussions. To contribute to this debate, I put forth a simple theoretical proposition: En route to developing a civilian nuclear infrastructure and mastering the fuel cycle, states pass through a proliferation “danger zone.” States with fuel cycle capabilities below a certain threshold will likely be unable to proliferate. States that pass through the “danger zone” without proliferating will be unlikely to do so in the future. I support this proposition by introducing preliminary analysis from the Nuclear Fuel Cycle (NFC) Index, a new heuristic tool to complement political assessments of the connection between civilian nuclear energy development and nuclear weapons proliferation. I conclude with policy implications for contemporary Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea. Taken together, this article calls for increased policymaker interaction with historical cases and more sophisticated academic engagement with the nuclear fuel cycle.
... С годами о таком консенсусе, существовавшем в начале 1990-х, забудут, и в 2014 г. некоторые американские эксперты зададутся вопросом, "не стоило ли Украине сохранить свой ядерный арсенал", чтобы предотвратить потерю Крыма [30; 31]. Напоминая о приводимых когда-то доводах и добавляя новые (например, неизбежную потерю Украиной многомиллиардной помощи), ответ на этот вопрос дает М. Рабли: "Те, кто распространяют ложную идею, что Украина могла бы развивать собственную экономику и дипломатические отношения, испытывая при этом финансовую и политическую нагрузку, связанную с ядерным арсеналом, преувеличивают плюсы обладания ядерным оружием и совершенно не замечают издержек" [32]. ...
... Of course, other factors influenced Ukrainian decision-making, including American pressure and concern about the Soviet response. But both superpower responses were funneled through, and legitimized by, the nonproliferation norm codified in the NPT (Rublee, 2015). Without the NPT, there would be no universal logic of appropriateness when it comes to nuclear acquisition and possession-only logic of consequences. ...
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We argue that the framework of norms has generated a progressive research agenda in the field of global nuclear politics, providing important insights that traditional realist and materialist analyses ignore or dismiss. These insights are not on the margins of nuclear politics; rather, they answer central questions about nuclear non-use, possession, and the nonproliferation regime at large. These findings are not a fluke; instead, they stem from the powerful analytical framework of norms, which provides complexes of linked propositions about actor expectations and behavior in global nuclear politics. This article examines three of those propositions: the importance of the logic of appropriateness, the role of norm contestation, and the changes brought about by norm entrepreneurs. Finally, we identify other norms-related ideas that can further illuminate the dire policy crises facing global nuclear governance, as well as specific areas of nuclear politics that would benefit from norms-related scrutiny.
... South Africa's and Ukraine's disarmament, or Qaddhafi's Libya's dismantlement of their nuclear programme did not spur countries to give up their nuclear deterrent. If anything, the Qaddhafi's fate, and Ukraine's recent experience with the country's security guarantor, cast shadow over the strategic logic behind such steps (Rublee, 2015;Thakur, 2015). ...
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Recent discussion about the nuclear ban treaty is the culmination of the “Humanitarian initiative”, arguably the most important development within the non-proliferation regime over the past Review cycle. Supporters see such treaty as the first step to forcing countries possessing nuclear weapons to disarm. This paper argues that a ban treaty is a bad idea because it would neither strengthen the norms, nor make the world a safer place. Instead, it would weaken the position of international law, and put premium on cheating on international commitments. Such outcome would not be beneficial neither for those wishing to do away with the risk of nuclear weapons, nor for the stability of international system. The article wraps up by listing some alternative possibilities to make world safer from the nuclear weapons – short of banning them outright.
This chapter commences with an explication of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) enlargement which touched the territory of the former Warsaw Pact (1999) and continued even by the joining of three former Soviet republics in 2002. Eichler remembers the Western, namely American authors (neorealist as well as liberals) who warned that such expansion would provoke security fears of Russian elites and concludes that this change of epochal importance started a shift toward a negative peace between the West and the Russian Federation. In analyzing the Black Sea dimension of the NATO enlargement, Eichler highlights the importance of geopolitical and military factors of the enlargement and their impacts on the Russian doctrinal thinking as well as on the security behavior of the Russian Federation. He is critical of the Russian support of separatists in the Eastern Ukraine and, namely, he criticizes the annexation of Crimea which was concluded without the presentation of this problem at the level of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The chapter concludes by the presentation of the serious impacts of this act on the international security relations which includes crucial decisions of NATO, EU and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and a growing number and seriousness of military incidents in the areas of the Black Sea as well as Baltic Sea.
Ever since the dissolution of the USSR the fate of the Black Sea fleet and its main base, the port and city of Sevastopol, remains at the centre of Russian-Ukrainian relations. The current dispute between the two largest of the former Soviet republics is deeply rooted in history, as the Russian side often uses historical arguments in its attempts to claim the Russian Federation's jurisdiction over the Crimea in general and the city of Sevastopol in particular. In doing so the Russian politicians often make use of highly developed historical mythology that presents Sevastopol as a symbol of Russian national glory and portrays Ukrainian jurisdiction over the city as a historical misunderstanding. This article discusses the development of Sevastopol mythology in Imperial and Soviet Russia from the times of the Crimean War till the dissolution of the USSR. It does so by placing Sevastopol mythology in the broader context of the development of Russian national identity and follows the changes in the functioning of the myth through more than a century. The article examines the atmosphere in which the myth of Sevastopol as a city of Russian glory was formed and how it managed to survive the dramatic changes that occurred in the former Russian Empire after the Revolution. It also discusses the ways in which the old imperial myth was transformed in order to meet the requirements of Soviet ideology and, within the last decade, of the ideological and political goals pursued by the new Russian state.
A FUNDAMENTAL ISSUE confronting the newly independent Ukrainian state is the preservation of its territorial integrity in the face of claims by neighbouring countries and regional movements supporting one or another form of self-determination. The problem can be viewed from several perspectives. First, there is the question of Russia's claims to territory presently within the boundaries of Ukraine. To date such claims have not been made on an official, inter-state level, although in the aftermath of Ukraine's declaration of independence on 24 August 1991 the Russian parliament as well as leading Russian political figures, including President El'tsin, have raised the question of reviewing borders between the two countries. A case in point is Crimea, which was transferred from the RSFSR to Ukraine in 1954 and which has now become enmeshed in the Ukrainian-Russian dispute over the Black Sea Fleet. Such heavily Russian and linguistically Russified areas as the Donbass and parts of
Conventional wisdom argues that Ukraine should be forced to give up its nuclear weapons to ensure peace and stability in Europe. This is quite wrong. As soon as Ukraine declared its independence, Washington should have encouraged Kiev to fashion its own secure nuclear deterrent. The dangers of Russian-Ukrainian rivalry bode poorly for peace. If Ukraine is forced to maintain a large conventional army to deter potential Russian expansion, the danger of war is much greater than if it maintains a nuclear capability. US policy should recognize that Ukraine, come what may, will keep its nuclear weapons.
This paper considers the ethnic, ideological, and geopolitical crises that have engulfed the Crimean peninsula since 1991 and provides a preliminary explanation for the region's success in averting violent conflict to date. Focusing on the role of political entrepreneurs in mobilizing key social constituencies, it argues that the failure of competing elites to correctly identify and skillfully manipulate existing ethnic, ideological, and geopolitical cleavages in society significantly limited the effectiveness of their mobilizational appeals. The existence of cross-cutting cleavages and the failure of political entrepreneurs to bring these cleavages into alignment have played a central role in deterring violent conflict in the region.
The Role of Nuclear Weapons During the Crisis in Ukraine', Working Paper
  • Thomas C For A Concurring Opinion
  • Moore
For a concurring opinion, see Thomas C. Moore, 'The Role of Nuclear Weapons During the Crisis in Ukraine', Working Paper, Lugar Center, 29 July 2014, p. 22.
Identity and Conflict in Crimea: Exclavisation Tendencies, Russian Memory and Ukrainian Statehood on the Margins of Europe', paper presented at the workshop 'Hard Memory, Soft Security: Competing Securitisation of the Legacy of Communism in Eastern Europe
  • Ibid
Ibid., pp. 57-8. See also Felix Münch, 'Identity and Conflict in Crimea: Exclavisation Tendencies, Russian Memory and Ukrainian Statehood on the Margins of Europe', paper presented at the workshop 'Hard Memory, Soft Security: Competing Securitisation of the Legacy of Communism in Eastern Europe', University of Tartu, Estonia, 9-10 December 2011, p. 4, http:// Identity_and_Conflict_in_Crimea._
Putin Needs to Show More Restraint Than Hero to Avoid a New Crimean War', Guardian
  • Orlando Figes
Orlando Figes, 'Putin Needs to Show More Restraint Than Hero to Avoid a New Crimean War', Guardian, 1 March 2014, world/2014/feb/28/putin-restraintcrimea-war-ukraine-russia-nicholas.