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Did Ukraine Make a Mistake by Giving Up Nuclear Weapons?
A special episode of AT THE BRINK
In the 90s, Ukraine made the decision to dismantle the thousands of former Soviet nuclear weapons left on its territory. Nearly 3 decades later, Russia has invaded Ukraine using its own nuclear arsenal to bully other nations from interceding. In this special episode of AT THE BRINK, we explore whether Ukrainian denuclearization was a fateful mistake and if a nuclear Ukraine could have prevented the Russian invasion.
I'm Lisa Perry, and you're listening to At the Brink, a podcast about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the stories of those fighting to protect us. Today, we're bringing you a special episode of At the Brink. The At the Brink team has been hard at work putting together an amazing second season of the podcast, which we'll be releasing later this spring.
But unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've probably heard about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Now, if you're a fan of our show, you know that after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the nineties, the former Soviet states of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan agreed to a process to dismantle the Soviet nuclear weapons left on their territory.
If you haven't listened to Episode Three, where we outline how that history unfolded, I highly recommend checking it out for further context for today's episode.
In that episode, we portray the denuclearization of these nations as a positive. In fact, we titled the show: Loose Nukes, a Nuclear Success Story. But with the invasion of Ukraine by the world's leading nuclear power, some people have been looking back at that history, and wondering if Ukraine made a mistake in giving up those weapons.
In this special follow-up episode of At the Brink, we ask three experts on Ukrainian nuclear history to explore this question: should Ukraine have held on to its nuclear arsenal?
Our first expert is former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Secretary Carter was instrumental in negotiating the Budapest Memorandum, which was the political agreement made with Ukraine, signed by the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia, to give up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for financial compensation and security assurances. He was also a central figure in implementing the cooperative threat reduction program which was the US program created to help dismantle former Soviet nuclear warheads and delivery systems, as well as decommission silos and retrain nuclear scientists and missileers.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today, Secretary Carter. As one of the first people to recognize the problem of so-called loose nukes on former Soviet territory, you've been involved in this issue from the very beginning. With the recent war in Ukraine, a lot of people have been questioning whether Ukraine should have retained this nuclear arsenal that you helped them to dismantle, with the idea that a nuclear armed Ukraine could have prevented a Russian invasion. What's your perspective on this hypothetical?
While that's an understandable question, there's a fallacy there, which comes from replaying history and just changing one variable. In other words, they are imagining that the entire 25 years between then and now would have gone just like it did now, they'd have had 25 years of statehood and 25 years of the general support of the West, and nuclear weapons. But that is not what was on the table for them back then.
For starters, Russia was not going to permit Ukraine to, independently of it, be a nuclear power. Second, neither the United States, nor any other Western countries at the time, wanted more nuclear proliferation. Because nuclear proliferation brings its own dangers, which are worse. That is, the dangers of what we called loose nukes there, which means either getting loose to all kinds of governments that could be unstable, and also loose in the sense of possibly losing control of them. So those were the reasons why we, the west and Russia at the time would not have allowed that to happen. So there is no alternative history in which Ukraine is the way it is now, a westernized society that has enjoyed 25 years of peace and independence, and has nuclear weapons; that was not going to happen.
Now that doesn't make Ukraine's plight something that we don't care about or shouldn't care about, because at the time that I worked with them to help them to get rid of nuclear weapons, which I think was in the interest of this country, but also really the world, I also worked along with then Secretary of Defense Perry, who was my boss, to bring the Ukrainian military more generally up to snuff, not to embed it in NATO, because we thought that was going too far. And in fact, I wanted NATO to go more slowly than it did actually. I'm not saying that would have made Vladimir Putin now any less reckless than he is. But he, it would have given him fewer excuses.
But anyway, we thought that a independent country, not aligned with either East nor West, difficult as that is, but hopefully aligned with both, with its own military, but not armed with nuclear weapons, was the best way for an independent Ukraine to be born. And I still believe that's true, despite what's going on right now.
And one last thing I'll say is that neither I nor Bill Perry believe that what is happening now in Ukraine could never happen. On the contrary, we thought it could happen. We referred to it in a book we wrote in the late 1990s as the Weimar Russia syndrome. In other words, like in Weimar Germany, when Germans came to feel aggrieved about the aftermath of World War I and a vicious politician took advantage of that grievance, and I'm speaking of Adolf Hitler now, and start a war. We were afraid that in the analogous case, if we overplayed the Western hand and humiliated Russia, or did things that it would interpret as threatening, even though we didn't mean them to be threatening, like NATO enlargement, that we could end up with a Weimar syndrome in Russia. And at least in some parts of today's Russia, we have precisely that syndrome. So Bill and I knew that this was possible, but that was not a reason in our mind, not to denuclearize Ukraine. On the contrary, it was a reason to, because if you saw that coming, possibly down the road, you don't want nuclear weapons mixed up in
You were a central figure in the negotiations that would lead to the Budapest memorandum. Is there anything in that agreement that we should be revisiting today, given the current situation.
Well, we certainly should remember, even though it's just a piece of paper, and I'm sure that's what Vladimir Putin would say—in it, Russia promised not to do exactly what it's doing right now. Now, you know, promises not to wage war are the first casualties of almost every war. So it's not surprising that that's true now, but the point was that it was the deal with Ukraine then that the Western countries would welcome the independence of Ukraine rather than insisting that Ukraine remained a part of Russia, if it surrendered its nuclear weapons, and Russia would agree to that also under the same conditions. So that's what we all agreed back there in Budapest. And that was the right deal for the time, and it bought us a quarter century of peace and also a quarter century without nuclear proliferation. But nothing's forever.
And so we have the war we have, and that's a completely different situation in which so far as, as this very moment is we're talking, seems to be headed for a very large cataclysmic war.
On the other hand, the West is I think conducting itself quite well in terms of unity, and willingness to make Putin pay a price. I don't think sanctions and that kind of thing were ever going to deter him if he was determined to do it. That's not really the point, deterrence isn't the point. The point of what is being done now by the Western countries is, in the long run by showing punishment to make sure that nothing like this happens again, and nobody else gets an idea that this is an easy ride for somebody who's going to attack their neighbor.
Next I spoke with Dr. Maria Rost Rublee. Dr. Rublee is an Associate Professor of International Relations at Monash University, specializing in nuclear politics. She is also the award-winning author of the book: "Non-proliferation Norms. Why States Choose Nuclear Restraint."
In 2015, after the Russian annexation of Crimea, Dr. Rublee published a journal article where she explored the technical, political and strategic obstacles that challenged the notion that Ukraine could have maintained a nuclear arsenal after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
I wanted to start with the technical issues. What sorts of things were standing in their way to maintain these weapons and make them their own?
Ukraine had multiple technical inadequacies that would have prevented them or made it very hard for them to, first of all, use the weapons that they had, the Soviet nuclear weapons that were on their soil, you know, and they inherited a third of the Soviet arsenal, they were suddenly the third largest nuclear weapons state in the world. So it might seem appealing to Ukrainians and now today, if only we had those to keep Putin out, but could Ukraine even had used them?
And then if they could have figured out a way to use them, could they have maintained and modernized them, because it's one thing to have nuclear weapons, you have to be able to deliver them somewhere. And so in all three of these assumptions there are lots of problems. The first about, could Ukraine have used them? That's one that they probably could have overcome this technical difficulty because they didn't have command codes, but most experts agree that they could have found a way to rewrite the launch codes and alter targeted guidance so they could gain operational control of the weapons, but the other two assumptions are much more problematic.
There were also a number of economic concerns that Ukraine was facing at the time coming out of the Cold War out of the Soviet Union. What sorts of problems were [economic concerns posing to the capability to maintain these weapons and be able to gain that operational control?
Most people, they don't understand the complexities here because maintaining and modernizing the nuclear weapons would have taken large very expensive investments over time, not just in personnel, because you need people trained in this, which Ukraine didn't have, but in terms of the facilities needed.
You have to remember at the same time Ukraine was a brand-new country. And, you know, they had a lot of investment needs, you know, a lot of things they needed to do for their human population. So the, the president at the time, who was against Ukraine keeping them, he basically said Ukraine shouldn't have to sell or pawn all of its property just to have nuclear weapons.
He estimated that having a fully operational nuclear arsenal would take at least 10 years and would cost about $200 billion. In comparison, as we look back over those same 10 years, public spending on education and health was about 60 billion. And so, we would have wiped out all Ukrainian spending on education and health, and that would have only covered a third of what was needed to modernize and maintain the weapons and delivery vehicles.
Beyond the launch codes and the economic concerns, were there other technical issues to retain nuclear weapons at that time?
Yes, absolutely. For them to be able to build up, you need a uranium enrichment plant, you need a plutonium ore processing plant, you need a nuclear test sites. Ukraine didn't have any of these. And in addition to that, maintaining delivery vehicles would have been really difficult. A lot of the ICBMs, the Intercontinental ballistic missiles that were part and parcel of what Ukraine inherited, they were due to reach the end of their service life within 10 years, and they just didn't have the capacity to maintain them.
In particular, one of the types of missiles they had, they were actually, decaying and really going to be no longer usable within about five years. So, the idea that Ukraine is suddenly going to have uranium enrichment plant, plutonium re- processing plant; they're going to be able to suddenly have the ICBM factory where they can maintain current weapons and build new ones—it just boggles the mind. Like this is not going to be possible within 10 years, and even if you thought, okay, Ukraine could have put all the money into doing that, is Russia going to sit idly by over the 10 years in which this has to take place, not to mention the US.
Which leads me directly into my next question is the political ramifications. Now, obviously this is speculative, but you've studied how this would have been received politically by Russia and the West. So tell us a little bit about what you imagined in this piece of how Russia might have reacted to Ukraine trying to retain its nuclear capabilities.
We have no way of knowing exactly how it would have happened, but we can imagine given the weight of the evidence that, in particular, Russia would not have tolerated Ukraine keeping its nuclear weapons. First of all, they said that tolerating a nuclear Ukraine would have violated their obligations to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, because as part of those obligations, they promised not to transfer weapons to another state.
More importantly than that, Ukraine would have accrued the military and diplomatic leverage of being the third largest nuclear weapon state, and given the recent collapse of the Soviet Union and the huge loss of prestige, Russia wouldn't have been able to bear that.
There were some people within Ukraine saying, we need to keep these. There's arguments about how serious that was, did they actually want to keep them, or were they just trying to get more money from the West? To use them as negotiating leverage to get a payout, essentially to help their country with their infrastructure needs.
And at one point the Russians threatened to permanently halt all gas to Kiev, unless all nuclear weapons were returned. These threats were made and they actually did shut off gas a number of times. And if Ukraine had said, we are keeping them, I think that Moscow would have come through with those threats.
Do you believe that Russia would have been deterred from taking action against Ukraine, if Ukraine did have a functional nuclear deterrent?
There is no way Russia would have sat off by the side and given them a five-year pass. I just don't think that would have happened. If it had happened, well, what about the US and Europe? Because they certainly wouldn't have sat idly by, and in fact, in those early years Ukraine received an enormous amount of foreign aid from both Europe and the US. Without that foreign aid, they wouldn't have been able to do these types of things. And there's no way that foreign aid would have been forthcoming if Ukraine had insisted on keeping the weapons.
We shouldn't be asking if Ukraine of today had nuclear weapons, would Russia being invading them right now? That shows a deep ignorance of what would have been required. Instead, the question should be what would have happened to Ukraine, if it insisted on keeping those weapons, what would have happened to its diplomatic status? What would have happened to public education? You know, Ukraine improved dramatically in terms of, public education, public health, and a number of these developmental measures. That wouldn't have happened. Some experts have argued and I would agree with this that they may have even devolved into an unstable rogue state in its attempt to maintain and modernize these weapons and delivery systems.
And frankly, we can't say for sure, but Russia likely would have invaded. I mean, all the signals that we can see from the time is that the invasion of Ukraine would have happened much sooner.
Given the recent interest in this question, Dr. Rublee has made her journal article free to access for the time being. To read her piece: "Fantasy counterfactual, a nuclear armed Ukraine”, go to the show notes page for this episode on our website, www.atthebrink.org.
Finally, we spoke with Dr. Mariana Budjeryn, in order to get a better understanding of the Ukrainian perspective on denuclearization. Dr. Budjeryn is a research associate with the Project on Managing The Atom at the Belfer center with a focus on post-Soviet nuclear history.
Hailing from the city of Lviv in Western Ukraine, Dr. Budjeryn is also the author of the forthcoming book, "Inheriting the Bomb: The Collapse of the USSR and the Nuclear Disarmament of Ukraine." I spoke with Mariana about what Ukrainians wanted to do with their inherited nuclear arsenal and how they feel about the decision today.
Just a little helpful background information for this conversation. In addition to the Budapest memorandum in 1994, Ukraine also became a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT. The NPT is a landmark 1970 UN treaty, which classifies states parties into two categories: nuclear weapon states, and non-nuclear weapons states. Under the treaty, the original five sanctioned nuclear weapons states of the United States, the Soviet Union, China, France, and the United Kingdom committed to pursuing general and complete disarmament. While the non-nuclear weapon states agreed to forgo ever developing or acquiring nuclear weapons.
In your book, you explore the Ukrainian journey to nuclear disarmament, which was definitely not a straight line. In AT THE BRINK, we've explored that disarmament perspective more from the American side of things. And I'm really interested to hear from both your Ukrainian perspective and also the research you've done professionally. What were some of the key reasons why Ukraine decided to denuclearize?
What is often forgotten today and current discourse is that Ukraine started its path to independent statehood with an intention to become a nuclear free state. So already in July, 1990, that's still a year and a half, a full year and a half before the Soviet Union collapses in December, 1991, Ukraine parliament adopts the declaration of state sovereignty in which it pledges to become, in the future, a nuclear free state. This was completely unilateral, there was no pressure, there was no kind of corrosion or persuasion by the outside parties. This came very genuinely from the Ukrainian political realm at that point.
And the reason for that was two-fold. One was Chernoybl. There was a pervasive anti-nuclear sentiment, that was also an anti-Soviet, anti-institutional, because those institutions were held responsible for the causes of this terrible accident, but also for the mis-handling of the aftermath, right. For the coverups, for you know, for all sorts of institutional dysfunction. And there was a pervasive anti-nuclear feeling. There was even an attempt to close Ukraine's nuclear power plants at that point.
The second reason for this renunciation was an understanding that Soviet command and control. Military command and control, especially of these strategic nuclear weapons, was so centralized, it was so closely tied into Moscow, bypassing republican leadership, that Ukraine's independence would be impossible if you do not sever those military ties. So for Ukraine to declare itself as a neutral state and a non-nuclear state, it was actually quite revolutionary at the time, because that meant disentangling something that was part and parcel of the Soviet union and of Soviet military industrial complex. Now history sort of had its own plans. The Soviet Union collapsed in a rather rapid and unexpected manner throughout the Fall of 1991. And those weapons with those command and control ties to Moscow, were left on now sovereign territory of Ukraine, but also in Belarus and Kazakhstan.
So the question then became not, should Ukraine really keep these weapons or not—I think it's a modern day simplified version of the story—but rather, how does the question of succession to this nuclear inheritance, how does that get resolved?
And Ukrainian leaders then took a more nuanced stance more as a matter of recognition that Russia is not the sole successor to all of the Soviet inheritance. That Russia was, was one amongst equals, at least in the international legal sense, right? That there shouldn't be this conflation of the Soviet Union and Russia. And that was a tough bargain, because of course an international sort of global order was, was sorted in the way that there were five permanent members of the UN security council, right? Only one successor from the Soviet side could succeed the Soviet Union that regard. And the same turned out to be true for the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, and the NPT, the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Only five states could be recognized internationally as quote unquote, legitimate nuclear possessors.
So there was kind of this tension. On the one hand, it was rather logical and beyond dispute that Russia should succeed the Soviet Union in relation to the NPT. But on the other hand, Ukraine, but also Belarus and Kazakhstan said, listen, we were also part of this Soviet nuclear program. We contributed our resources. We contributed our scientists. We did not proliferate in violation of any international norm, or launch some clandestine programs. This was part of our legacy, just as much as it is part of Russia's legacy. So these were these questions that had to be addressed and sorted.
There were several narratives across the Ukrainian political spectrum that this inheritance should be somehow held onto and reworked to actually provide Ukraine with a nuclear deterrent. That narrative, the deterrence narrative, was extremely marginal in Ukrainian political debates. Most of the leaders said, listen, it is something we've rightfully inherited from the Soviet collapse. We do not want to be a nuclear weapons state. We do not want to be a nuclear possessor. But we feel entitled to compensation.
And one part of the compensation is for the fissile material, for the actual highly enriched uranium, plutonium, contained in these warheads that we are giving up. And the other part is security guarantees. That process of negotiations for that renunciation of this nuclear inheritance yielded the so-called Budapest Memorandum.
So from your research, the interest around a Ukrainian nuclear arsenal is a more recent evolution. One that perhaps employs are rather hazy hindsight perspective, and doesn't actually reflect what the Ukrainian people at the time were interested in doing with the weapons they inherited.
That's generally correct. So, in about 1993, the support for retaining nuclear arms in Ukraine, I think it peaked at about 30 or so percent, a little bit higher in Western parts of the country, but generally there was really no overwhelming support for nuclear arms.
After 2014, that support peaked at almost 50%. Since then it kind of petered out again, but after the Russian annexation of Crimea and then the war in the Donbass in 2014, there have been a couple of motions on the part of Ukraine's political leaders to withdraw from the NPT and revisit as Ukrainians, like to say, Ukrainian nuclear status. What does that exactly mean? That leaves a leave as much room for interpretation, whether that's launching a nuclear weapons program in earnest, or just somehow hedging this claim of that Ukraine has an entitlement to a nuclear program that remains obscure. But I have to say that these kinds of official motions, or the statements from leaders or officials, they have remained really quite marginal for the same reasons that they have been in the past 30 years ago when Ukraine was deliberating these choices.
And one is, more so in the early nineties then today, was resources, right. What Ukraine inherited back in that day was a shard of nuclear armaments that were designed by a different country for different strategic purpose. What was left by mid-1992 was intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads that had ranges of over 10,000 kilometers. Even if you could seize command and control and you can re target them, which allegedly, would have been a bit risky, but not beyond the capabilities of Ukrainian industry and science at the time, so even if you could do that, where would you target them as a deterrent? Vladivostok? You know, they would not have fashioned a credible deterrent, so a lot would have to be still done.
And if the nuclear element were to be included, not just sort of strategic missiles, conventionally armed, but with nuclear warheads that the entire nuclear fuel cycle basically would have had to be built. That was something Ukraine did not have. So there are huge gaps Again, not beyond the reaches of scientists and engineers in Ukraine, but the resources, right. You would have to relocate those resources from other areas. And in the early nineties, those resources were scarce. And so they are today.
And the other reason why Ukraine would not in earnest reconsider this, and why back in the nineties, it made the choices that it did, is essentially for the kind of country Ukraine wanted to become. It did not want to be a North Korea of Eastern Europe. It wanted to join the international community on good terms. Back in the early nineties, there was sort of, you know, the evil empire fell apart, and there was this aspiring democracy. I think a bit rosy eyed and a bit naive as to what the world was like out there. They wanted to be on a good side of, of history, wanted to join the international community on good terms.
And at that point, joining the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state was part of that. It was part of constructing yourself into the kind of state that Ukraine really wanted to be and did not want to defy the international consensus on non-proliferation it wanted to be part of it.
If you could elaborate a bit more on what the economic situation was for Ukraine at the time, was there even a real world in which Ukraine could have retained these nuclear weapons and been able to do what was needed, both for security and retrofitting and upkeep and maintenance of these weapons?
The economic situation was really dire. In 93, 94, inflation reached tens of thousands of a percent. It was one of the highest inflation rates worldwide. Ukraine did not even have a permanent currency. It had these coupons so-called that were sort of placeholders until Ukraine could stabilize its currency enough to introduce the hryvnia, what we know now as Ukraine national currency. That was introduced only in 1996.
So , clearly Ukraine was in a very, very tough position. Is there a real world in which Ukraine could have held on to nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons, probably not. The actual nuclear warheads, it could have potentially kept a couple of warheads just to see if they could reverse engineer them a more stable economic situation. But it could certainly not have afforded to retain these intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear armed.
So in the end, the United States, the policy was all strategic arms, including delivery vehicles, have to go. And in that sense, the Nunn-Lugar program that paid for the dismantlement of missiles of silos of bombers, that went a really long way because Ukraine would not have wanted to find itself in the situation, with this decaying infrastructure that's not usable, would have to be covered from the Ukrainian budget. So in the end it was a good deal and it was a right thing that Ukraine did, And I think that needs to be recognized that it was not giving up nuclear weapons for nothing. That Ukraine did receive technical assistance, that it did receive compensation for the fissile material that was contained in the warheads. Kind of indirect recognition that those were Ukrainian warheads to give away, right? But there needs to be a recognition in Ukraine that it was a lot more complicated, that it was not ready to go nuclear deterrent that was just turned over for nothing.
I think perhaps the West, post-2014, could have done a bit of a better job of framing the military assistance that was very earnestly given to Ukraine in the Budapest Memorandum. For some reason, the document was sidelined. And there was one meeting of the Memorandum signatories on March 5th, 2014. Russia didn't show up, sort of just ignored the meeting. There was a statement that was produced that condemned Russian actions, and that was sort of it. So not much was being made of that part of the deal, which was again, not insignificant.
It's not a legally binding treaty, it's not a guaranteed, but it is an important political document, signed by the heads of state, that is now part and parcel of the international non-proliferation regime. But you know, these guarantees slash assurances were negotiated by Ukrainian diplomats. And from my standpoint as a historian, it was a big win. It was a big achievement and for a country that had very little leverage at the time, negotiating with two nuclear states that were coordinated, to see Ukraine the nuclear free state.
In our show, we've detailed quite a bit about the US perspective on denuclearizing the former Soviet states. If you could talk a little bit about the Russian perspective at the time, would Russia have tolerated a situation in which Ukraine maintained some nuclear weapons or kept some nuclear warheads? How do you think that would have played out potentially?
The Russian perspective of the time was a bit inconsistent. On the one hand Russia was very sensitive to any claims that those were Ukrainian weapons to give up. It maintained that those were Russian weapons, simply trapped on Ukrainian territory, very much like, US stations its weapons in Turkey or in Germany, and so forth. So on the one hand, they kind of denied any claims Ukraine would have to these weapons. On the other hand, they were really legitimately worried.
Whether Russia would have invaded, which is a claim that's often made at that time, it's hard to assess. There was, you know, a CIA assessment of that possibility that I read amongst their archival documents. And they concluded that, at least at that point in the early nineties, any kind of large scale military operation between Ukraine and Russia was, was probably not a realistic option.
So even though Russia would have not liked one bit, the fact that Ukraine would have meddled somehow with these nuclear weapons, I doubt personally that the kind of, you know, large scale response would have been forthcoming. That is not to say Russians would have not had other means to sabotage or subvert that kind of program. I mean, those were still very interconnected systems at the time, the Russian military, the Ukrainian military, you wouldn't even call it penetration, right, there was no kind of division then as it is now. So I think Russia back at that time would have made efforts to sabotage the program for sure.
Do you, as a non-proliferation expert have concerns about how the current incursion by Russia is going to influence the narrative around nuclear proliferation and potentially incite more pressure towards nuclear development, not just in Ukraine, but in other nations around the world?
I'm very much concerned about that, and even before the current invasion, after 2014, I think, that's one of the salient consequences of the breach of the Budapest Memorandum simply because it is still part and parcel of the broader nonproliferation regime. And nuclear states, they have a special responsibility. There's an honest responsibility for international peace and security and for not abusing this privileged status that the international community had agreed voluntarily to bestow upon them, in an essentially discriminatory treaty. Some are allowed to have nuclear weapons, and some don't. So there are a set of bargains that are designed exactly to ameliorate this inequality, and we've already seen, with the emergence of the Ban Treaty, that there is this kind of this international pushback. There's an insurrection as it were to say, nuclear states, you are not standing up to your part of the bargain.
So the credibility of the NPT regime is already shaky right? From, from a different side. And suddenly we see one of the recognized nuclear states, not only sort of rest on its nuclear laurels, but actively use and abuse this nuclear status, this nuclear power that they have to invade another country.
I mean, we've heard threats, nuclear threats, coming out of Kremlin, very explicit references that Russia is a nuclear power. So, you know, the West, don't get involved. This kind of blatant abuse of this nuclear status that has been recognized, conditionally, is very, very damaging to the international non-proliferation community. And I think it's going to become that much harder to dissuade other potential proliferators to either relinquish the nuclear weapons—I mean, think about North Korea or Iran—it's just that much harder to, to make credible promises that their security will not suffer as a result of nuclear, nuclear disarmament and nuclear renunciation.
Mariana, thank you so much for talking with us today, and all the best to your family and everyone in Ukraine during this really difficult time.
Thank you so much.
You can check out Mariana Budjeryn's book, "Inheriting the Bomb, The Collapse of the USSR and the Nuclear Disarmament of Ukraine," coming to bookstores soon.
That's it for today's special episode, make sure you subscribe to the show so that you get notifications. When we come out with our second season about the brain this spring, where we'll be exploring the dark legacy of nuclear weapons testing in the United States and hear from some of the people who've been paying the price for our nuclear policies for decades.
Thank you again to Secretary Ash Carter, Dr. Maria Rost Ruble, and Dr. Mariana Budjeryn for their insight and expertise. To find out more about their work or to read up on the disarmament of Ukraine, go to the show notes page on our website, WWW.ATTHEBRINK.ORG.
I'm Lisa Perry. Thanks for listening
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter
25th U.S. Secretary of Defense; 31st U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense; Director, Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
Maria Rost Rublee
Associate professor of international relations at Monash University, with expertise in nuclear politics. Author, “Fantasy Counterfactual: A Nuclear Armed Ukraine”
Researcher on the Project on Managing the Atom at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center. Native of Lviv, Ukraine. Author, “Inheriting the Bomb: The Collapse of the USSR and the Nuclear Disarmament of Ukraine”