June 29, 2017

23.06.2017 Who Is the First to “Take a Nuclear Rifle off the Wall”?

The theme of the next conference of the Center for Russian Studies (CRS) was the analysis of the Russian military nuclear potential, the threat of which is being talked about by the entire civilized world. After all, if once such a weapon was presented as a deterrent, now its role is somewhat different. For example, the one who owns it can today blackmail one's opponents, to begin with. And secondly, today one can use it to stay at the helm of power, when the society is already beginning to doubt the correctness of its choice of a state leader. To give two or three examples of this kind from the current world history is no problem, is it? Head of the Center for Russian Studies, Ambassador Volodymyr Ohryzko, greeting those present, spoke about this in general terms and granted the right to conduct a conference to his colleagues Ihor Kabanenko (former First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces) and Leonid Polyakov (former First Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine). They also led the work of two panels of this event and gave the floor to distinguished politicians and scientists.

I will not go into detail of the content of all the speeches or refute any particular opinion of the speaker, I just want to mention the themes of the reports. After all, this will be enough to understand the “tonality of perception” of this important topic, when during military operations in the East of Ukraine, not always successful or vice versa, people from time to time, express claims to our state leadership, saying that Ukraine had hurried to give away nuclear weapons, and rashly agreed to sign the Budapest memorandum of guarantees for our state, which turned out to be empty promises.

In her speech, Polina Synovets (Odessa National University named after I. Mechnikov), the Candidate of Political Sciences, touched upon the subject of nuclear weapons in the military doctrine of the Russian Federation and the evolution of approaches to its application. Yuriy Barash, member of the Expert Council of the Ukrainian Centre for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies, spoke about the state of the Russian nuclear arsenal and the tactical and technical characteristics of Russia's Strategic Nuclear Forces. On the scenarios of Russia's use these forces, and whether it will be able to achieve the desired by resorting to some of these options — spoke the well-known in Ukraine American expert Phillip Karber — president of the Potomac Foundation. The title of his report speaks for itself — “Possible scenarios for Russia's use of nuclear weapons in the present military and political situation”.

Mr. Karber explained the difference in perception of the concept of hybrid wars by the West and by Russia. He drew attention to the history of the development of the power of nuclear weapons, in particular, from its use on Hiroshima to later tests. The American speaker pointed out that Russia has less chance of surviving in a nuclear war than the West does, but still no one has a desire to see it in reality. As for the methods of using nuclear weapons, in the opinion of American experts, Russia is rapidly developing the means of its delivery — the Armata tank, nuclear torpedoes, etc. He showed the photos of these facilities to the audience, voiced some of their characteristics, including of artillery systems (152 mm), which today are in great numbers recorded in the Donbas. In general, the speaker outlined the possible tactics of the actions of Russian troops, accumulated next to the Ukrainian border — up to 4 Russian armies.

This looks similar to the pre-war events of 1941, when hundreds of Soviet military units, thousands of military equipment, and hundreds of thousands of servicemen were concentrated on the western borders of the USSR for further offensive to the west. True, the enemy was first to attack and gave a crushing blow, the consequences of which, figuratively speaking, were eliminated during the next four years of the war...

By the way, as Mr. Karber pointed out, the Russians can now take advantage of the example of the fighting in 1944 to organize their offensive and break through the defense of troops opposing them in the Donbas or in the Baltic. These are, so to speak, two main points of attraction — the Donbas and the Baltic — where serious events are possible, Mr. Karber specified. And he was for giving full support to Ukraine, which should be well-armed, in order to successfully withstand current enemy with NATO's.

In the second half of the conference, its participants heard reports “Nuclear blackmail as a fundamental element of Russian foreign policy and possible instruments for its neutralizing” (rapporteur — Doctor of Political Sciences Hryhoriy Perepelytsya), “Is international law able to deter Russia's nuclear threat?” (Ambassador, Doctor of Laws Volodymyr Vasylenko), “NATO nuclear component as the main element of deterrence of Russia. Comparative analysis” (expert Oleksiy Kuropyatnyk).

Traditionally, the experts of the Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies “Borysfen Intel” also took part in the conference.

In general, the theme raised by the participants and organizers of the conference will remain relevant for a long time and it is clear why. But the author of these lines has noticed that, as always, the questions about the expediency of Ukraine's transfer of its nuclear weapons remain, and how its managers plan to dispose of it remain rhetorical. Such questions are voiced at various levels and by various so-called experts, but no specific and authoritative actions or explanations follow. Why? After all, as the classic once said, if a gun hangs on the stage, then they hanged it for some purpose. And if it was hanged, then it must shoot. It is clear, because someone will pull the trigger.

Oleh Makhno

The photo-report by Volodymyr Rayevskyi