Attrition warfare continues with attacks and counterattacks along with some slow progress by Russia in the Donbas.
For leaders worried about unfriendly, nuclear-armed neighbors, “they will say to their domestic audiences, ‘Please support our nuclear armament because look what happened to Ukraine,’ right?” said Mariana Budjeryn, a researcher with the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
As a schoolgirl in 1980s Soviet-era Ukraine, Budjeryn drilled on how to dress radiation burns and other potential injuries of nuclear war, at a time that country housed some 5,000 of the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons. Her country renounced nuclear weapons development after the Soviet Union shattered, opting for economic assistance and integration with the West and security assurances.
“Ultimately, I think a lot is riding on the outcome of this war in terms of how we understand the value of nuclear weapons," Budjeryn said.
Around the world, the U.S. military is reassuring strategic partners who are facing nuclear-backed rivals.
Near the North Korea border this month, white-hot ballistic missiles arched through the night sky as the U.S. joined South Korea in their first joint ballistic test launches in five years. It was a pointed response to North Korea's launch of at least 18 ballistic missiles this year.
In Europe and in the Persian Gulf, President Joe Biden and U.S. generals, diplomats and troops are shuttling to countries neighboring Russia and to oil-producing countries neighboring Iran. Biden and his top lieutenants pledge the U.S. is committed to blocking nuclear threats from Iran, North Korea and others. In China, President Xi Jinping is matching an aggressive foreign policy with one of his country's biggest pushes on nuclear arms.
Some top former Asian officials have cited Ukraine in saying it's time for more non-nuclear countries to think about getting nuclear weapons, or hosting U.S. ones.
“I don’t think either Japan or South Korea are eager to become nuclear weapon states. It will be immensely politically painful and internally divisive. But what are the alternatives?” ex-Singapore Foreign Minister Bilahari Kausikan told the audience at a March defense forum.
For those hoping North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons, the example provided by Russia's invasion of Ukraine is “another nail in that coffin," Terence Roehrig, a professor of national security at the U.S. Naval War College, said at another defense forum in April.
“Ukraine is going to be another example to North Korea of states like Iraq and like Libya, that gave up their nuclear capability — and look at what happened to them,” Roehrig said.
Ukraine never had detonation-ready nuclear bombs — at least, none it could fire on its own.
The Soviet Union's collapse left Ukraine with the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal. But Ukraine didn’t have operational control. That left it with a weak hand in the 1990s when it negotiated with the U.S., Russia and others on its place in the post-Soviet world, and the fate of the Soviet arsenal. Ukraine got assurances but no guarantees regarding its security, Budjeryn said.
Regarding his views of the possible future scenarios, Noam Chomsky, who is one of the world’s most widely cited scholars, said that “the war will end, either through diplomacy or not. That’s just logic. Well, if diplomacy has a meaning, it means both sides can tolerate it. They don’t like it, but they can tolerate it. They don’t get anything they want, they get something. That’s diplomacy. If you reject diplomacy, you are saying: ‘Let the war go on with all of its horrors, with all the destruction of Ukraine, and let’s let it go on until we get what we want.’”
Most of this is not obvious to western audiences simply because rational voices are “not allowed to talk” and because “rationality is not permitted. This is a level of hysteria that I have never seen, even during the Second World War, which I am old enough to remember very well,” Chomsky told Gulf News.
While an alternative understanding of the devastating war in Ukraine is disallowed, the West continues to offer no serious answers or achievable goals, leaving Ukraine devastated and the root causes of the problem in place. “That’s US policy”, indeed.