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Start of the ICBM R-36M
Launch of R-36M, a strategic ICBM
designed and produced in Ukraine
when it was still part of the USSR.
Russian troops are in effective control of the Crimean peninsula. U.S., European Union and Ukrainian officials are fuming over the takeover and trying to calculate some way short of unthinkable war to get them back to their bases. There's been talk that Ukraine should never have given up its nuclear weapons as part of a security deal when the USSR folded in 1991. If it still had some of the 5,000 strategic and tactical nukes that were on its territory when it became independent as the Soviet Union broke up, it is argued, then Vladimir Putin would never have dared make the moves he has.

But John Isaacs, executive director of the Council for a Livable World, the nuclear disarmament group founded in 1962 by nuclear physicist Leó Szilárd, thinks otherwise, as he told Elaine M. Grossman of the Global Security Newswire, a publication of the Nuclear Threat Initiative: "There is no predicting what Russia would have done if Ukraine had retained nuclear weapons. We do know that the risk of nuclear holocaust would have increased immeasurably."

That's the opposite of political science professor John Mearsheimer's view. In a Sunday email to Grossman, he wrote: "I do think they should have kept their nukes. If Ukraine had a real nuclear deterrent, the Russians would not be threatening to invade it. [...] "I doubt whether we would have been so anxious to foster a coup [against President Victor Yanukovych]. One treads very lightly—to put it mildly—when threatening the survival of a nuclear-armed state, or even the regime in charge of it."

Mearsheimer was also of the view that the end of the Cold War would mean that Germany would get nukes and that wouldn't be a bad thing.

Please read below the fold for more analysis on this subject.

Neither man's position is exactly a surprise.

The Council for a Livable World's goal is a planet without nuclear weapons. The world has moved more in that direction over the past three decades. In the year the council was founded by Szilárd, the United States and Soviet Union had arsenals totaling nearly 31,000 nuclear warheads. At the peak, in 1986, they had about 64,000. Today, although an exact count is not publicly available, the two nations together have between 9,500 and 16,000 operational and reserve nuclear weapons. Still way beyond enough in a full exchange to kill every human on earth with blast, burns, radiation poisoning and nuclear winter.

Ukraine has zero. But two decades ago, it had more than any other nation except Russia and the United States, at least four times as many, in fact, as all other nuclear nations combined.

As Ukraine was negotiating with Russia, the United States and European Union what would become the Budapest Memorandums on Security Assurances guaranteeing its security if it gave up the nukes it had inherited from the Soviet Union, Mearsheimer, who is known in foreign policy jargon as a "realist," was arguing forcefully for it to keep those nukes. In the summer edition of Foreign Policy he wrote an essay "The Case for a Ukrainian Nuclear Deterrent:"

Most Western observers want Ukraine to rid itself of nuclear weapons as quickly as possible. In this view, articulated recently by President Bill Clinton, Europe would be more stable if Russia were to become "the only nuclear-armed successor state to the Soviet Union." The United States and its European allies have been pressing Ukraine to transfer all of the nuclear weapons on its territory to the Russians, who naturally think this is an excellent idea.

President Clinton is wrong. The conventional wisdom about Ukraine's nuclear weapons is wrong. In fact, as soon as it declared independence, Ukraine should have been quietly encouraged to fashion its own nuclear deterrent. [...]

A nuclear Ukraine makes sense for two reasons. First, it is imperative to maintain peace between Russia and Ukraine. That means ensuring that the Russians, who have a history of bad relations with Ukraine, do not move to reconquer it. Ukraine cannot defend itself against a nuclear-armed Russia with conventional weapons, and no state, including the United States is going to extend to it a meaningful security guarantee. Ukrainan nuclear weapons are the only reliable deterrent to Russian aggression. If the U.S. aim is to enhance stability in Europe, the case against a nuclear-armed Ukraine is unpersuasive.

Second, it is unlikely that Ukraine will transfer its remaining nuclear weapons to Russia, the state it fears most.

Mearsheimer was dead wrong about the second claim. Because that's exactly what Ukraine did. Two years after agreeing to the Budapest Memorandum in 1994, it transferred the last of its nukes to Russia.

Whether that was a good idea obviously depends on whom you ask. In an email to Grossman, he wrote:

“Ukraine with nuclear weapons is one heck of a dangerous idea. There is already in the mix eastern Ukraine vs. western Ukraine, East vs. West Cold War overtones, Russian vs. U.S. interventionism. [...] It would be like tossing a package of lighted matches into a vat of flammable fluids. The results would be unpredictable, but hazardous for everyone’s health.”
If one buys Mearsheimer's argument, then surely Ukraine shouldn't be the only state with a deterrent against potential attack by a nuclear-armed adversary. What about Georgia and Kazazhstan? What about Iran?

The latter's leaders have repeatedly said they have no intention of building a nuclear arsenal. The nuclear development program for which it is being heavily sanctioned is completely peaceful, it claims. U.S. intelligence officials have agreed that Tehran is not currently pursuing nuclear weapons as far as they can determine. But Iran has been repeatedly threatened with military assault by the United States and by Israel. If a deterrent would work for Ukraine against Russia, then why not for Iran against the United States? And if this works for Iran, then what about neighboring nations who have what they say are reasons to fear a nuclear-armed Iran? Like, say, the Saudis? Shouldn't they also have their own warheads?

And if the Ukrainians and Georgians and Kazakhs and Iranians and Saudis, then why not Japan, despite its history, given the potential of its giant nuclear-armed neighbor to the west, not to mention North Korea? After all, if Ukraine can't depend on the U.S. to come to its aid militarily, can Japan?

In fact, it should be noted, Mearsheimer thinks a good case can be made for Israel to give up its nuclear arsenal, an unacknowledged 60-200 warheads, as long as Iran provides guarantees that it won't build any of its own. But why? Deterrence works or it doesn't, right?

As noted, Mearsheimer is known as a "realist," the same designation as, for instance, Henry Kissinger. They see the world as one solely comprised of "interests" and "spheres of influence." They are credited with not observing things through rose-colored kumbaya spectacles. Idealists like Isaacs who seek nuclear disarmament are seen by "realists," at best, as naïfs and they ridicule them for supposedly failing to see the world "as it really is."

But real realists know full well that the more nations which have a nuclear deterrent the more likely is the chance that a nuclear war will not be deterred, either through diplomatic miscalculation or madness or the kind of operational mistake or communication errors that brought the United States and USSR to the brink on more than one occasion. Such an outbreak might be confined to a few warheads and a few vitrified cities. Messy but survivable for all but those in the target zones.

Or the whole planet might get fried.

So far, with the exception of the first two A-Bombs dropped nearly 70 years ago, we've managed to avoid the horrific conflagration in which the survivors would envy the dead. Adding a dozen or so more nations to the nine who already have nuclear weapons will not make the world a safer place.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 05:48 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It seems to me that the biggest impediment (13+ / 0-)

    to non-proliferation efforts is the tendency of powerful countries such as the US and Russia to invade countries that don't have nuclear weapons. We can say that we don't know if Russia would have invaded if Ukraine had kept it's nuclear weapons, but the actions of every country in the world show pretty conclusively that only countries without nuclear weapons get invaded by major powers.

    If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

    by AoT on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 06:01:21 AM PST

  •  theory (7+ / 0-)

    In theory, one cannot disagree with the ultimate threat of having nukes in more places.  However, nations like North Korea and Israel are paranoid/schizophrenic, and they see what's playing out in Ukraine as proof of the need for nukes.  The disregard Russia showed for its pledge not to invade Ukraine will resonate long after this "dust up" is resolved.  The only way to stop a bully is to be as strong--and as crazy--as the bully.
    We're living on borrowed time--eventually nukes will be used again--human beings are brilliant --and flawed.  My guess is that global warming will make this more likely as nations fight over water rights--especially in Asia.  A lot of thirsty souls there and their glaciers are evaporating.  Kaboom.

    Actions speak louder than petitions.

    by melvynny on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 06:28:34 AM PST

  •  Getting rid of nukes is always wise (10+ / 0-)

    First of all, I'm REALLY glad Ukraine got rid of its nukes, I see NO advantage to their having them now. If Nuclear war was being threatened right now over this it would be a world disaster.
    I doubt if they'd be threatening nuclear war, either Russia or the U, they share a 1000 mile plus border. It would be like the USA threatening to nuke Mexico or Canada.
    I don't think Putin's going to war over this (I looked into his soul LMAO) there's nothing to be gained by it. I think he's just flexing his muscle to sshow who's got the real power.
    here's something I learned in Vietnam: Never EVER try to reform a corrupt country, especially if youre paying for it. Every one of the players in this must be considering that. Putin knows the Pottery Barn Rule better than we do.

    There's certain people who live in other countries that come to this site saying the USA should go to war over this. They are fuller of shit than a Thanksgiving Turkey.

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 06:30:46 AM PST

    •  Just for the record, there is no ... (8+ / 0-)

      ...Pottery Barn Rule. They cover broken inventory out of their own funds.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 06:33:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There is now (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buddabelly, blue aardvark, Asak

        Colin Powell made it famous, even erroneously,
        they'll always have their name on that one, like the Merkle Boner

        Happy just to be alive

        by exlrrp on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 06:42:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  He lied a lot, and eestablished nothing. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AoT, RainyDay, YucatanMan

          That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

          by enhydra lutris on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:17:42 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  He's been lying since Vietnam, when he helped (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Meteor Blades, AoT

            cover up My Lai and similar incidents by reporting "nothing found here," greatly pleasing his superiors.

            Unfortunately for Powell, the truth eventually came out. The fact this is not a permanent and horrific public stain on his reputation is a credit to his media handlers.

            But a test soon confronted Maj. Powell. A letter had been written by a young specialist fourth class named Tom Glen, who had served in an Americal mortar platoon and was nearing the end of his Army tour. In a letter to Gen. Creighton Abrams, the commander of all U.S. forces in Vietnam, Glen accused the Americal division of routine brutality against civilians. Glen's letter was forwarded to the Americal headquarters at Chu Lai where it landed on Maj. Powell's desk.

             Maj. Powell undertook the assignment to review Glen's letter, but did so without questioning Glen or assigning anyone else to talk with him. Powell simply accepted a claim from Glen's superior officer that Glen was not close enough to the front lines to know what he was writing about, an assertion Glen denies.

            After that cursory investigation, Powell drafted a response on Dec. 13, 1968. He admitted to no pattern of wrongdoing. Powell claimed that U.S. soldiers in Vietnam were taught to treat Vietnamese courteously and respectfully. The Americal troops also had gone through an hour-long course on how to treat prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, Powell noted.

            "There may be isolated cases of mistreatment of civilians and POWs," Powell wrote in 1968. But "this by no means reflects the general attitude throughout the Division." Indeed, Powell's memo faulted Glen for not complaining earlier and for failing to be more specific in his letter.

            Powell reported back exactly what his superiors wanted to hear. "In direct refutation of this [Glen's] portrayal," Powell concluded, "is the fact that relations between Americal soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent."

            He's been a lying sack all his life in order to climb the ladder of success.

            See also:  Colin Powell Owes Us an Apology, Not Another Excuse - Esquire

            He also worked to fog over Iran-Contra:

            In 1987, Walsh had requested that Weinberger hand over any records relevant to the Iran-Contra affair. In reply, Weinberger produced a modest amount of material, nothing incriminating. Then, in 1991, Walsh’s investigators discovered that Weinberger had sent thousands of pages of diary and meeting notes he had kept while defense secretary to the Library of Congress. This material showed that, contrary to his sworn testimony, Weinberger knew in advance that the Reagan administration was shipping weapons to Iran in exchange for hostages.

            Powell was asked a standard question: Did Weinberger keep a diary? The investigators wanted to know if documentary evidence existed that could help them unravel the scandal.

            Powell replied, “The secretary, to my knowledge, did not keep a diary.” But, as Walsh’s investigators found out four years later, Weinberger had kept an extensive diary. Perhaps it was possible Powell had not known about Weinberger’s notes. But in 1992, when Weinberger was under investigation for having lied about the notes, Powell had a different story to tell about his old boss’s diaries.

            In a sworn affidavit submitted to Walsh’s office by Weinberger’s attorney, Powell said, “During the period I worked with Secretary Weinberger … I observed on his desk a small pad of white paper, approximately 5″ by 7″. He would jot down on this pad in abbreviated form various calls and events during the day. I viewed it as his personal diary.” In a subsequent interview with Walsh’s office, Powell revealed that he even knew that Weinberger had stored his diary notes “in his desk on the right side.”

            Powell’s 1992 statement contradicted his 1987 statement.

            A Lying Sack. His entire life has been dedicated to covering up brutality, murder, crime and lies. He's been a loyal, faithful servant of Republicans and more of the ugliest people in the world.

            "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

            by YucatanMan on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 05:32:05 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  He told the truth twice (0+ / 0-)

            when he broke with the GOP to endorse Obama in two elections.

            The Stars and Bars and the red swastika banner are both offerings to the same barbaric god.

            by amyzex on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 09:09:51 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  I never understood the logic of basing foreign (0+ / 0-)

        policy on what Pottery Barn's policies are or any other merchant's policy.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 05:18:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  This...I couldn't believe the diary yesterday (9+ / 0-)

      about the missile test....

      I mean really, does anyone honestly think Russia needs to prove their rocketry expertise to anyone in the world least of all us?

      We have to ride their rockets to the dang space station for Ghu's sake....I think we are very aware of their abilities as are the Ukrainians....

      Once in a while you have to test and there was a list of tests I saw with about 6 over the last few years.... they had this planned and we were notified just like we notify them when we test.

      Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
      I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
      Emiliano Zapata

      by buddabelly on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 10:23:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It is a terrifyingly persuasive argument though. (7+ / 0-)

      Nukes will make you think twice about bullying a weaker nation. There's no way around it.


      "See? I'm not a racist! I have a black friend!"

      by TheHalfrican on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 04:36:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's wise for the world as a whole, but (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      btfsilence, dinotrac, Spit, AoT

      each individual state has a pretty strong incentive to build up enough of a nuclear capability to provide a deterrent effect. Obviously that requires a lot more than just having nuclear weapons, the country needs a credible second strike capability. Otherwise, there's an incentive for the attacking country to do a preemptive strike.

      It's impossible to say whether Russia would have invaded if Ukraine still had it's nuclear weapons, but the calculus would certainly have been different. Other weak countries have got to be looking at what's going on and learning what happens when you don't have the ability to deter aggression from a great power state.

      •  Its a prisoner's dilemma problem... (0+ / 0-)

        with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

      •  Russia didn't invade (0+ / 0-)

        in the way that, say, the US invaded Iraq. Russia has a treaty to have troops in Ukraine and didn't send any troops in. It's a weird situation in regards to nuclear weapons for that reason.

        If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

        by AoT on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 06:28:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's unclear (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AoT, amyzex

          Russia denies having sent more troops in, but then Putin has also denied that any Russian troops have been involved at all.

          It's certainly not a full-fledged invasion, unlike Iraq. OTOH, the current plan seems to be to annex the Crimea into Russia, which is also unlike Iraq.

          The Empire never ended.

          by thejeff on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 05:55:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not convinced nuclear weapons... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          would have made a huge difference in this case.  So far Russia hasn't done anything besides send troops to Crimea.  Had they done this, and Ukraine had nukes, would Ukraine have fired them off?  That would just result in their own total destruction.  I don't think they'd do it over Crimea.  

          The fact is Ukraine's claim to Crimea is also somewhat sketchy.  If the population of Crimea really wants to rejoin Russia, then I think they probably will, and it's hard to say that's totally unreasonable as it was only transferred to Ukraine in relatively recent history.  

          However, I think Putin may have actually made Crimean annexation less likely by how ineptly he's handled the situation.  

  •  The world was better off for Ukraine (8+ / 0-)

    having surrendered their nukes.  It helped to stabilize the world of non-proliferation.  Unfortunately, the current crisis is destabilizing to that end, as it makes countries ask themselves why they should give up (or not acquire) nuclear weapons when they could have them as an equalizer.

    With the Decision Points Theater, the George W. Bush Presidential Library becomes the very first Presidential Library to feature a Fiction Section.

    by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 06:36:01 AM PST

  •  Background re Saudi Arabia's nuclear ambitions: (4+ / 0-)

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

    by lotlizard on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 06:38:26 AM PST

  •  Putin's motivations for his hastiness are slowly (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Asak

    coming nothing to do with Ukraine but some internal Russian issues which they refuse to confront.

  •  Eh, nukes wouldn't have helped Ukraine. (4+ / 0-)

    Perhaps if Russia did a full invasion and was exterminating ethnic Ukranians MAYBE, but otherwise I doubt it.

    I think we are in much more danger of proliferation into non-state actors hands for dirty bombs, etc.

    Economic Globalism is a double-edged sword and in the case of nuclear warfare possibility, I think it uses its good edge.

    While you dream of Utopia, we're here on Earth, getting things done.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 06:47:54 AM PST

    •  Like the rest of Europe..and the US...Russia is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, Lawrence

      changing.....and they have no mechanism to cope...and THEY have a lot of nukes.

    •  I think this is true (6+ / 0-)

      Russians have seized key Ukrainian assets in Crimea. Dislodging them is not made easier if you have a nuclear weapon.

      The only thing you could do is threaten to nuke a nearby Russian city, and that is the kind of threat that makes no sense if you are not prepared to carry it out. And the Russians could retaliate, and then then you have two losers with smoking craters where their cities used to be.

      There is a reason why nobody has fought a nuclear war in the many years since the emergence of these weapons.

      Nevertheless not having them prevents a less than rational actor from having the temptation to use them, plus removes the possibility of accidents and thefts of weapons or nuclear material.

      •  I can't think of a single Nuclear armed (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        btfsilence, Spit, Simplify, FrankRose, amyzex

        state that has ever been invaded. Now, that might be luck, but most states with nuclear weapons would use them if they faced significant territory losses. I really can't imagine Russia risking nuclear war.

        There is no nuclear threat that makes sense. Mutually assured destruction doesn't make sense. But somehow it magically works. The sad fact is that countries can look at history and see that only countries that don't have nuclear weapons get invaded.

        If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

        by AoT on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 05:02:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The idea is that you wouldn't have to dislodge (0+ / 0-)


        And the unstable situation in Ukraine only adds to that.
        The very thing that would make Russian want to invade the country would keep them from doing it.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 05:37:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  True. Look at the way that India has overpowered (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FrankRose, Peace Missile

      Pakistan and all of those Middle Eastern powers have plowed through Israel.

      Or, for that matter, the fact that N. Korea continues to exist.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 05:36:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  And with Putin's mental stability under question (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TheHalfrican, blue aardvark, bluezen

    Isn't that already one of the 'worst case' scenarios - that a mentally ill head of state has control over a country's nuclear weapons? Can't you see him justifying a first strike based on the idea that Ukraine MAY use theirs first?

    Similar to the Bush way of thinking - we have to get them before they get us!

    "When does the greed stop, we ask the other side? That's the question and that's the issue." - Senator Ted Kennedy

    by Fordmandalay on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 07:01:55 AM PST

  •  Non-proliferation is dead, in that it ever lived. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, FrankRose

    The Ukrainian crisis will put the final nail in the coffin.

    (Although, the age of the ICBM as deterrent is also drawing to a close.  Energy weaponry is rapidly evolving and will eventually allow for effective anti-ICBM defenses.)

  •  Should have? (0+ / 0-)

    Nobody ever died from "should have." "Didn't" trumps "should have" every time.

    Let the pundits blather and thank goodness history, this time, wasn't as insane as usual.

    Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

    by Boundegar on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:34:21 AM PST

  •  We need exactly zero nuke weapons. There isn't (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, blue aardvark, dinotrac

    thing about them that isn't problematic.

    The only hawk I like is the kind that has feathers.

    by cany on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:38:41 AM PST

  •  JFK on the perils of nuclear weapons: (6+ / 0-)

    Speech to the nation announcing the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, July 26, 1963

    During the next several years, in addition to the four current nuclear powers, a small but significant number of nations will have the intellectual, physical, and financial resources to produce both nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. In time, it is estimated, many other nations will have either this capacity or other ways of obtaining nuclear warheads, even as missiles can be commercially purchased today. 

    I ask you to stop and think for a moment what it would mean to have nuclear weapons in so many hands, in the hands of countries large and small, stable and unstable, responsible and irresponsible, scattered throughout the world. There would be no rest for anyone then, no stability, no real security, and no chance of effective disarmament. There would only be the increased chance of accidental war, and an increased necessity for the great powers to involve themselves in what otherwise would be local conflicts. 

    ...If we are to open new doorways to peace, if we are to seize this rare opportunity for progress, if we are to be as bold and farsighted in our control of weapons as we have been in their invention, then let us now show all the world on this side of the wall and the other that a strong America also stands for peace...

    ...[F]or the first time in many years, the path of peace may be open. No one can be certain what the future will bring. No one can say whether the time has come for an easing of the struggle. But history and our own conscience will judge us harsher if we do not now make every effort to test our hopes by action, and this is the place to begin. 

    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:39:19 AM PST

  •  unfortunately this is relitigating the 1994 MOU (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue aardvark, foresterbob, amyzex
    Ukraine has plentiful amounts of highly enriched uranium, which the United States wanted to buy from the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology. Ukraine also has two uranium mining and processing factories, a heavy water plant and technology for determining the isotopic composition of fissionable materials. Ukraine has deposits of uranium that are among the world’s richest. In May 1992, Ukraine signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) in which the country agreed to give up all nuclear weapons and to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state. Ukraine ratified the treaty in 1994, and as of January 1, 1996, no military nuclear equipment or materials remain on Ukrainian territory.
    When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the newly independent Ukraine had on its territory what was the third largest strategic nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. It was larger than those of Britain, France, and China combined. On June 1, 1996 Ukraine became a non-nuclear nation when it sent the last of its 1,900 strategic nuclear warheads to Russia for dismantling. The first shipment of nuclear weapons from Ukraine to Russia (by train) was in March 1994. In return for giving up its nuclear weapons, Ukraine, the United States of America, Russia, and the United Kingdom signed the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, pledging to respect Ukraine territorial integrity, a pledge that was arguably broken by Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 09:59:41 AM PST

  •  The Truth (7+ / 0-)

    Iraq had no nuclear weapons which made it easy for the United States to invade them. The United States will never invade North Korea because they have nukes.

    However, anything can happen. Although a nuclear armed Ukraine would have reduced the probabality of a Russian invasion, that probability would not have been zero.  If multiple countries have nuclear weapons, the odds say that eventually we will have nuclear war. Thus, the best policy is for no nation to have nukes.

    The end of the Cold War was a great time to move to zero nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, the world leaders failed to take advantage of this opportunity.

  •  Can't think of ANY iron curtain client state (3+ / 0-)

    that should have them.  Not the DDR, not Poland, not Yugoslavia (can you imagine what would have happened if there were nukes in Bosnia?), much less former members of the USSR (-stans with nukes)!

    Simply insane.

    Not especially thrilled the French and British have them, either.  Definitely not happy about India and Pakistan or N. Korea.

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 10:13:39 AM PST

  •  That's not an accurate description of realism (0+ / 0-)

    At least not from the perspective of security studies. It is an idealized model of the behavior of nation-states, not a statement on personal values.  And like any model, the devil's in the details.

    •  Perhaps I condensed my explanation too... (0+ / 0-)

      ...much and gave the wrong expression. With two degrees in international relations, I can assure you I understand realism and neorealism in all their variants.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 05:43:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I had a similar thought... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, amyzex

    …to Mearheimer's yesterday morning, then quickly dismissed it as being rather foolish.

    It's arguable that the transfer to Russia of Ukraine's nuclear arsenal was the wrong call; it'd likely have been much better for Ukraine's warheads to have been dismantled in place. But in the absence of the possibility of that, returning them to Russia - where they would ultimately be subject to bilateral disarmament treaties between Russia and the USA - was probably the right call for all parties involved.


    "I ordered enchiladas and I ate 'em. Ali had the fruit punch." - A Tribe Called Quest

    by turnover on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 04:43:21 PM PST

  •  I must take extreme exception to this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mindful Nature
    As Ukraine was negotiating with Russia, the United States and European Union what would become the Budapest Memorandums on Security Assurances guaranteeing its security if it gave up the nukes it had inherited from the Soviet Union ...
    I read the text of the Memorandum, and in no way does it "guarantee the security" of Ukraine. No signatory is required to help defend Ukraine except against nuclear attack.

    The Russians, BTW, are in violation of several clauses of the Memorandum. Putin is a man foresworn, not that I think he cares.

    But since the Memorandum is a toothless agreement if no nuclear weapons are used against Ukraine, they receive no improvement in their security from having signed it at all.

    Purity is for primaries; in the general, our worst are better than their best.

    by blue aardvark on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 04:52:14 PM PST

  •  It's moot (0+ / 0-)

    Fortunately Ukraine was willing and happy to give them up. Decades ago.

    "Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for a real Republican every time." Harry Truman

    by MargaretPOA on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 04:55:01 PM PST

  •  Nukes likely would have prevented (0+ / 0-)

    this invasion. So from Ukrainian point of view it's a no-brainer. It should have kept its nukes until it joined NATO. Yes, it would have been better if everyone gave up their nukes. But until that happens it makes sense for every country that can afford it to either have nukes or have a NATO-like treaty with a nuke-possessing country.

    •  You assume hostile relations with Russia (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It happens to be true currently. But to have assumed it two decades ago would have been paranoid. It looks like they gave up too much, but you also seem to assume that any concession is weak. That's not a route to even a semi-sane international situation.

      •  Good point. Can't blame people for lack of (0+ / 0-)

        clairvoyance. Their decision made sense at the time. But if Russia more or less gets away with breaking several treaties, at least its neighbors will be understandably wary.

  •  Russia's actions encourages more countries to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dinotrac, amyzex

    keep or acquire nuclear weapons. Also true for the US invasion of Iraq.

    No nation with nuclear weapons has ever been invaded by another nation (Israel has not had other nations attempt invasion since it unofficially became a nuclear power).  Countries with nuclear weapons can behave as outrageously as North Korea, without their fearing a military response.

    Unfortunately, this encourages potentially unstable countries to get nuclear weapons, such as Pakistan and Iran.

    For non-proliferation to really succeed and expand, reasonable assurance of non-invasion is needed.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 05:02:53 PM PST

  •  There would be Russian troops in Kiev (0+ / 0-)

    There is no way the Russians would abide the revolutionaries getting access to a nuclear arsenal. Given Putin's overreaction in Crimea, there's little doubt in my mind that he would have sent Russian troops to seize all of Ukraine's nuclear facilities, the parliament and the leadership of the revolution (Which the Russians believe is a bunch of extremist neo-Nazis).

    Thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of Ukrainians would die, the Russian army would be occupying the entire country and WWIII would be a hair's breadth away.

    Ukrainian nukes wouldn't have prevented a Russian invasion, they would have caused it.

    •  Not quite. Nuclear deterrence means being willing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FrankRose, amyzex

      to use it. It means mutual assured destruction. If Ukraine still had 5,000 nuclear weapons, or even 500, and Putin tried to seize them, they would have to make sure that Putin knew that attempting to seize weapons would mean both countries would bomb each other to oblivion. If that threat was credible, then Putin could not take the risk. As sick as MAD is, it can work. It would certainly work better than the "guarantees" Ukraine received from liars and cowards that they would defend its territorial integrity in return for them giving up their nukes. And it would be infinitely better than the unprincipled brand of isolationist pacifism we are hearing now: Pacifism at any cost, Ukraine is "not our problem," nobody gives a crap if they live or die, we just want to say we stopped war, even if thousands die as a result of the peace. We helped put Ukraine at Putin's mercy, and now we are pulling our well practiced betrayal maneuver.

      Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

      by tekno2600 on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 07:45:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nuclear weapons don't kill people (0+ / 0-)

    states with nuclear weapons kill people.

    Or something.

  •  I heartily agree (0+ / 0-)

    The surrender of their warheads by Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and South Africa was the greatest step towards peace in the 1990s.

    The Stars and Bars and the red swastika banner are both offerings to the same barbaric god.

    by amyzex on Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 08:57:37 AM PST

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