By the end of World War II, the planet’s third largest nuclear power was not the United Kingdom, France or China, but Ukraine. With the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991, the newly independent country inherited about 3,000 nuclear weapons left behind by Moscow.
Three decades later, The Ukraine Completely nuclearized. The country finds itself in a subtle position after the Kremlin-led regional invasion that threatens to react to any attempt by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) powers to intervene in the conflict.
Putin sharpened Russian nuclear control forces
But what has happened in the last few decades Ukraine From one of the world’s largest nuclear powers to its largest neighbor, the occupied country?
Also, would the presence of these weapons in the territory of Ukraine help prevent an invasion? Is there a risk of a nuclear conflict in the current war? Finally, the Ukraine As has attempted to possess nuclear weapons Russia?
In the 1990s, The Ukraine In exchange for being recognized as a security and independent nation, it decided to hand over the remaining nuclear weapons in its territory. All were acknowledged by the Budapest Memorandum signed between the Government of Ukraine. RussiaAfter the end of the United Kingdom and the United States Soviet Union.
In a treaty signed in 1994 in the Hungarian capital, The Ukraine He promised to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to withdraw the remaining warships from its territory to Moscow.
“By the end of the Soviet Union, part of the Soviet nuclear arsenal was lagging behind in many Eastern European countries, and in the West they could be lost or misused, endangering Europe,” says Vicente Ferro. Junior, political scientist and researcher in the Asian Studies Laboratory at the University of Sவோo Paulo (USP).
In exchange for Kiev’s disarmament, governments RussiaThe United States and the United Kingdom pledge to “respect freedom, sovereignty and existing boundaries.” Ukraine“Avoid using threats or force against the country”.
The peculiarities were very important to the Ukrainian government at that time because the country gained firm independence only in 1991 and has been fighting for international recognition since the Soviet era.
Ukrainian volunteers take weapons from authorities to confront Russians on the streets – Photo: Daniel Leal / Getty Images
By 1996, Kiev had already returned all Soviet weapons remaining in its territory. The memorandum was signed by Belarus and Kazakhstan with the same conditions as the Kiev government.
‘No weapons, no security’
The Ukraine Says that Russia The memorandum was first broken in 2014, when it annexed the Russian naval base in Sevastopol and occupied Crimea in the east of the country where the Black Sea Fleet is located.
The Ukrainian government claims that the terms of the agreement were violated when the Kremlin began supporting separatist groups leading the uprisings in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces on the Ukrainian border. Russia. More than 14,000 people have already been killed in the conflict in the region.
Since the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory in 2022, the government of President Volodymyr Zhelensky has decided to reactivate the Budapest Memorandum.
“The Ukraine Security guarantees after the abandonment of the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal. We do not have these weapons, but we have no security, “Zhelensky said in a speech on 02/19.” Since 2014, Ukraine Budapest tried three times to consult with the states that signed the memorandum, but was unsuccessful. Today The Ukraine He will do this for the fourth time. One last time. ”
There was no time for any consultation, and the invasion took place on 2/24, with attacks on Ukrainian military infrastructure across the country and Russian convoys coming from all directions.
Following the Ukrainian leader’s speech on the memorandum, Russian President Vladimir Putin used Zhelensky’s words to justify his actions.
Putin said in a speech in Moscow on Monday (21/02) Ukraine Dropped the deal with the intention of developing nuclear weapons with US help. According to him, the country planned planned occupation, and therefore posed a greater danger to the Russian people.
“Putin’s statements are completely false. The United States has no interest in arming or watching Ukraine Armed with nuclear weapons, “said Alexander Lanoska, a professor of international relations and a nuclear safety expert at the University of Waterloo (Canada).
‘Love and anticipation’ results
Even before the memorandum was signed in Budapest, members of the Ukrainian political elite and experts in international politics had already predicted the possibility of the agreement being violated by one of the signatories.
Former army chief Volodymyr Tolupko, who was elected to the Ukrainian parliament, argued in the 1992 legislature. Ukraine Completely nuclearizing in exchange for the promise of security is “love and anticipation.”
According to him, the country should have some of the Soviet warships that would help “prevent any invaders.”
With the recent Russian invasion, the debate has resurfaced, government officials and political analysts argue Ukraine Infiltration could have been avoided if it had nuclear weapons at its disposal.
Ferro Jr. of the USP explains that there is hope among some countries that a nuclear arsenal would be effective in preventing foreign attacks.
“There is an opinion that is being defended by some in the area of international relations known as nuclear non-proliferation or nuclear peace. According to him, countries with nuclear weapons are less at risk because they cannot actually use their own weapons, but because they use them. A guarantee or threat against any attempted attack.” He says. “The geniuses of these ideas often use the example of the Cold War as the basis for their arguments, because at the time the U.S. Russia Never stopped direct confrontation and threats “.
Experts who listened to Brazil through the BBC News warn that the existence of nuclear weapons is far from guaranteed or represents a sense of peace.
“Nuclear-related conflicts are always very dangerous and tense, like the years-long conflict between Pakistan and India,” Ferraro Jr. said.
‘Political and financial costs’
According to Lanoska of the University of Waterloo, the arguments used by the Ukrainian elite were meaningless because Kiev never controlled the weapons installed in its territory after World War II.
“The Ukraine These weapons only had physical control, but did not function. They do not have access codes and sensitive details to enable them, which can actually make their use even more dangerous, ”says the researcher.
Andrew Fouter, a professor of international politics at the University of Leicester (United Kingdom), also points out that having an armory in Kiev could pose future risks.
“Although Ukraine Today it has a nuclear industry, and converting it into a nuclear weapons program will incur significant political and financial costs. ”
Is there a risk of a nuclear conflict?
Although Kiev is completely non-nuclear, fears of a nuclear conflict have arisen in Europe since Russian forces invaded Ukraine’s borders.
In his speeches, Putin has already made it clear that he will respond aggressively if anyone in NATO, the military alliance led by the United States and Europe’s major powers, decides to intervene in support of the conflict. Ukraine. In addition, he kept strategic nuclear power Russia Under “special warning”, the highest level.,
In a conversation with military officials, the Russian president said that global powers had taken “hostile measures.” Russia And imposed “illegal sanctions.” Switching to alertness makes it easier to launch weapons quickly, but that does not mean there is no real purpose to using them.
But according to nuclear safety and policy experts, there is no reason to panic at this time. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has already stated that he has no troops Ukraine There are no plans to send them home. According to him, Putin’s mandate on nuclear weapons is “dangerous” and “irresponsible”. A similar position was expressed by the US government and the European Union.
So far, the military alliance seems likely to consider military intervention only if there is a Russian threat against one of its member states. Under Section 5 of NATO, the organization is obliged to protect any member state that is attacked.
The Ukraine He is not a member of NATO, but he says he wants to join a military alliance – Putin is determined to stop it and use it as one of his justifications for military action in the Ukrainian region.
“Any outside intervention in the conflict or any action against it,” Putin said Russia, Generating a strong response. Between the lines, there is the nuclear threat, “says Lanoska.” But there is a common interest on all sides to limit this conflict. Ukraine. So I would be very surprised if nuclear weapons were used at this time.
According to Ferro Jr., even if Russia attacks other former Soviet republics that are part of NATO, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, it is possible that both sides will want to reduce the risks. “As the West and NATO avoid direct confrontation Ukraine, Russia It will avoid a conflict in other parts of Eastern Europe, “he said.
As for Futter, there is no indication that Moscow wants to use its nuclear weapons against Ukraine. “I do not see a reason why Moscow is using nuclear weapons Ukraine. Not only because any radioactive material very close to their border is dangerous, but also because they do not want to destroy the country and the Ukrainian people, their plan seems to be to annex the territory. Russia. ”
Finally, Larlecianne Piccolli, a researcher specializing in strategic weapons and defense and defense policy Russia And the director of South American politics and strategy (Isape) wrote on his Twitter profile that Putin’s warning was aimed primarily at intimidation. Ukraine And force the negotiating table, which is already underway. But the terms of the talks have not yet been officially released.
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