February 10, 2017

Is It Advisable for Ukraine to Obtain Nuclear Status?

Bohdan Sokolovskyi

The sad almost three-year long history of the Russian-Ukrainian military conflict in the Crimea and Donbas, especially at the moment of the intense right now situation in Avdiivka, has intensified exchange of views on the lack of our security, one-sided discussion of the ATO (a war or an operation), discussion of the undue “delicacy” of Western countries and international organizations. All this leads to the conclusion that most are afraid of the Russian Federation because of its nuclear potential. And in fact, no one has yet explained what is supposed to be an adequate response of the non-nuclear occupied Ukraine or of the too prudent West to the nuclear Russia if it tries to use nuclear weapons. In other words: the main “stumbling block” is still Russia's “bogey” causing in Ukraine and worldwide fear of Russia.

For quite a long time the Crimea has been occupied, and the circumstances in the Donbas do not have an adequate definition, and the military confrontation, in fact, is virtually unchanged — now it calms down, now is exacerbates. The longer it goes on this way, the worse for Ukraine, and this, to some extent suits Russia and increases the West's fatigue of us. Sometimes it seems that smoldering of this crisis will continue for years.

This leads to the conclusion that in order to change this situation, Ukraine should respond adequately to Russia's “nuclear issue”. No wonder recently more actively has been discussed the “restoration” of the nuclear status of our state. Many politicians, including some people's deputies of Ukraine, think about it.

In this regard, I must say the following.

Firstly, we can talk only about Ukraine's getting a nuclear status, rather than about its restoration. After all, Ukraine had never (including the period of the restoration of its independence in 1991 to the present day) had such a status. In our territory for some time had just been deployed nuclear weapons of a foreign state — the USSR.

You can also argue that the Ukrainian nation, as compared with others, made perhaps the most significant intellectual contribution to the creation of Soviet nuclear weapons. However, after the collapse of the Soviet empire, we decided to get rid of it. In particular, we “trumpeted” around the world that we were not able to cope with it, because the controls were not with us, while a different opinion of experts was ignored. That is, we were trying to show the world that we did not have professionals able to manage a nuclear weapon. And the world adequately and readily reacted to it. In the end, all nuclear warheads, including tactical ones, were taken away from Ukraine.

Secondly, there is no doubt that the Russian Federation, before attacking an armed with nuclear weapon Ukraine, would have thought twice. However, there is no guarantee that a nuclear Russia in the end would not have attacked such Ukraine. As a result — the world could have witnessed an armed conflict with the use of nuclear weapons on both sides. Although no one can guarantee that the Russian Federation will not use such weapons against us unilaterally. After all, to hope or try to understand the logic of Russia's actions is a hopeless and thankless task.

In a word, Ukraine's having nuclear weapons still does not rule out Russian aggression with its use.

Thirdly, of course, Ukraine is able to produce nuclear weapons and manage them. But we must not forget that creating a nuclear bomb, we would violate all our obligations on non-production and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and their components. It does not matter whether we voluntarily took such commitments, or someone forced us to — the current problem cannot be solved by learning this. We, of course, must remember this, at least, in order in the future not to make similar mistakes. And here I must say that it is only Ukraine's own business! No one abroad is interested and will not do anything.

It should also be emphasized that since the decision to create own nuclear weapons, all civilized countries would suspend cooperation with us, all the international financial institutions would refuse financial cooperation, including would stop lending. That is, the project of creation of Ukrainian nuclear weapons would be funded by Ukraine. And this would be from a few billions to tens of billions of US dollars...

Besides, creation of nuclear weapons involves using the technologies of the 1940s–1950s. That is, de facto, our state should return to the technological level of the past, having spent great money on it. Do we have it? Would the people of Ukraine support such a project?

And very natural in this context is the question avoided by all the supporters of nuclear bombs: and what will we do in the “grey period”, that is, from the decision to create nuclear weapons to its actual creation, when we are not really protected either from the air or from missile nuclear strikes when our own nuclear weapons have not yet been created? And this is a considerable period of time — years. And we must not forget that in this case we would be rejected by virtually all foreign partners, there would be no financial or military, and so on cooperation. That is, a complete international isolation, where no one even theoretically would help us in defense. After all, it is clear that all who show interest in this question, including the aggressor, would know about such our decision.

In a word, creation of Ukrainian nuclear weapons would stop the development of Ukraine, and from this the Russian Federation would benefit.

Fourthly, it would be interesting to initiate the development of the technology of the 21st century to neutralize nuclear weapons. And to practically implement it, that is to master the production and to supply these means to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Particularly relevant such a project would be within the framework of the Baltic-Black Sea Arc. 15–20 % effective means for neutralization of nuclear weapons would have sown panic in the aggressor's environment. And in case of higher efficiency — even more so. It is important that in this case, Ukraine's international cooperation would not stop during the so-called “gray period”, i.e. during the period from the date of the decision to create means for neutralizing nuclear weapons to their creation. In other words, nothing would prevent Ukraine from cooperation with partners, including military cooperation on practical protection of our territory... For example, we could take a decision on creation of neutralization means for real protection of Ukrainian territory against Russia's possible nuclear attack. It is obvious that such an initiative would seriously strengthen Ukraine's international prestige, which is especially important now, when there is a lot of talks about whether Ukraine is a subject or an object of international politics. It would have a positive impact on strengthening the credibility of Ukrainian scientific-technical schools, because here would be involved most advanced scientific and technological achievements. It is obvious that such Ukraine's initiative would be welcomed by all civilized, democratic states, which undoubtedly would seek to co-authorship in this development and could participate in financing the project. It should also be said that the above-mentioned means for neutralization of nuclear weapons would be highly liquid in the world arms markets, and thus the costs of their creation costs would be fully or partially compensated.


So there are several options for an adequate response to Russia's nuclear threat. Obviously, now, no one would be able to objectively calculate which one is worse, and which is the best.

We may, of course, sit on our hands, losing our credibility, dreading Russia's using nuclear weapons, and just getting ready for a long-term war against Russia on the Ukrainian territory, with all its consequences, and so on. But it is also possible to resort to practical measures. In particular, to find appropriate responses to the Russian nuclear threat: from elementary nuclear weapons to means to neutralize the nuclear weapons of the occupier.

The most objective in this regard could be a special commission made up of the true scientific and technical elite of Ukraine. This Commission would assess our capabilities. Such a body should be headed by a citizen who is fully trusted in Ukraine and abroad. The organization of such a project would need experience in organizing the “Manhattan” nuclear project. Moreover, involvement of true Ukrainian scientists and technicians in solving this very important for our country problem would contribute to the restoration of the authority of the Ukrainian science, technology and scientists, which in itself is an important aspect of the future of the Ukrainian statehood.