Ukraine/Nuclear weapons

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Concept.png Ukraine/Nuclear weapons 
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Ukraine held about one third of the Soviet nuclear arsenal.

Ukraine as part of the Soviet Union and had a third of all Soviet nuclear weapons in its territory.[1]

Wikipedia lists:[2]

  • 130 UR-100N intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) with six warheads each
  • 46 RT-23 Molodets ICBMs with ten warheads each
  • 33 heavy bombers
  • totaling approximately 1,700 pieces
  • (not explicitly mentioned by Wikipedia, but this likely includes a number of smaller tactical nukes as well, ie mini-nukes/mines and rockets of shorter range)

Following the agreements reached in 1994 in the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine agreed to destroy the weapons and to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Policy reconsideration

Before the start of military action by Russia in 2022, rearmament with nuclear weapons was brought up as a possibility by Volodymyr Zelensky in his speech during the Munich Security Conference on February 19, 2022.[3][4][5] In addition, there were other statements in the preceding years:

  • 2022 - in mid February 2022, Dmytro Kuleba (Ukraine foreign minister) in an interview said that Ukraine's nuclear disarmament wasn’t smart;[6]
  • 2021 - Andrij Melnyk, Ambassador to Germany at the time, said that the majority of Ukrainians are convinced that renouncing nuclear weapons in 1994 in exchange for "security guarantees" was a fatal mistake, he called on the West to take Ukraine into NATO as soon as possible, otherwise, he said, Kyiv would have to consider restoring its nuclear status;[7][8]
  • 2019 - in April 2019, Oleksandr Turchynov who at that time held the post of secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, said that "nuclear disarmament was a historic mistake" of Ukraine;[9]
  • 2018 - General Pyotr Garashchuk said that Ukraine has the capabilities to develop and manufacture its own nuclear weapons (again);[10][11]

The mention of the possibility by Zelensky lead to a response from Russia. Vladimir Putin in his address to the nation on 21st February 2022:[12][13]

"As we know, it has already been stated today that Ukraine intends to create its own nuclear weapons, and this is not just bragging. Ukraine has the nuclear technologies created back in the Soviet times and delivery vehicles for such weapons, including aircraft, as well as the Soviet-designed Tochka-U precision tactical missiles with a range of over 100 kilometres. But they can do more; it is only a matter of time. They have had the groundwork for this since the Soviet era. In other words, acquiring tactical nuclear weapons will be much easier for Ukraine than for some other states I am not going to mention here, which are conducting such research, especially if Kiev receives foreign technological support. We cannot rule this out either."

Putin assured that viewpoint in his address to the nation on 16th of March 2022.[14][15]

Doubts about Ukraine's ability

If Ukraine, even if they have the technical capability to do so, can recreate the technology without help and financing from outside is however, questioned by some analysts. writes:[16]

Ukrainian Nuclear weapons capability

Some Ukrainian officials, such as retired General Pyotr Garashchuk , have argued that Ukraine retained enough technical knowledge to obtain a full range of nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

Technically, there is an industry in Ukraine that, with some modifications, should be able to create nuclear weapons systems. But, no nuclear power would help Ukraine make atomic weapons because no one wants to deal with the inevitable wave of problems that will arise the day it becomes known that Ukraine is developing nuclear weapons.

Instead of offering their approval and assistance, the U.S. and its allies are likely to work against Ukraine, potentially imposing economic sanctions. The current state of Ukraine’s economy and the government’s dependence on foreign aid makes Kiev’s chances of doing what Pyongyang did is doubtful.

The operation of nuclear weapons is a huge high-tech industry. Economically hobbled Ukraine will have to invest tens of billions of dollars in its formation, and without a guaranteed positive result.

Given the circumstances, Ukraine’s nuclear ambitions may be part of an attention-grabbing campaign rather than a real roadmap.


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