News / USA

Ukraine Crisis Stirs Fears of New Nuclear Arms Race

Russian mobile Topol-M missile launching units drive in formation during the Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square May 9, 2014. Russia celebrates the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany during World War II every May 9.
Russian mobile Topol-M missile launching units drive in formation during the Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square May 9, 2014. Russia celebrates the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany during World War II every May 9.
Cecily Hilleary
U.S. forces are conducting large-scale nuclear "deter and detect" drills this week, just days after Russia conducted similar military exercises simulating retaliatory strikes to a hypothetical U.S. or NATO nuclear attack. 

Their timing— during the  tense standoff over Ukraine —combined with Cold-War-era rhetoric coming out of Moscow, have raised fears of a new nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Russia.

In 1994, the U.S., UK, Russia and Ukraine signed the so-called Budapest Memorandum to remove Soviet nuclear weapons from Ukraine. 

In return, the three powers agreed to respect Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and borders, and Ukraine signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
 
Andrei IllarionovAndrei Illarionov
x
Andrei Illarionov
Andrei Illarionov
''The Budapest agreement is a fundamental memorandum, a fundamental element in the modern system of nuclear nonproliferation,” said Andrei Illarionov, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity and former economic adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“By nullifying this document, Mr. Putin has demonstrated that the guarantees of the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia have no worth in the eyes of any prospective holders of nuclear weapons.”

The risk, says Illarionov, is that Iran, North Korea and other prospective nuclear countries will conclude that the only way to guarantee their own territorial integrity is by being nuclear powers.  Implicit is the suggestion--which others have made-- that if Ukraine had not given up its nuclear weapons, Russia would never have dared interfere in Crimea.

“This is the most serious challenge to the system of international relations since the Second World War,” Illarionov said, “and unless the United States, the United Kingdom, the West as a whole are able to solve this problem in a reasonable period of time, it will lead to the nuclearization of the world.”

“Like a bad movie…”

It is a chilling warning for anyone old enough to remember the Soviet-era Cold War and global fears that at any time, one side might push the nuclear button, effectively eliminating the other and devastating the planet. 

As Russia was conducting its military drill last week, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia will quadruple the number of its long-range missiles by 2021.

Russia also announced it will colonize the Moon by 2030.

It was Russia’s launch of Sputnik in 1957 that opened up another front in the Cold War—and created the space race of the 1960s.

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti recently reported that Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Committee had introduced a bill to reestablish Ukraine as a nuclear power and demand financial compensation for Russia’s violation of its territory.

Earlier, CNN reported that two Ukrainian political parties had introduced a separate bill calling for the rejection of the country's 1994 accession to the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
 
George PerkovichGeorge Perkovich
x
George Perkovich
George Perkovich

“It’s like a bad movie,” George Perkovich, Director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said. 

“There is this pathetic rhetoric coming out of Russia and this pathetic political psychology that’s reminiscent of petty dictatorships whose leaders trump up all these great images of strength to mollify the people--and colonizing the moon is a part of that.”

Nuclear race unlikely

Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund and author of several books on nuclear nonproliferation, said fears of nuclear fallout from the Ukraine crisis are unfounded.

Violating the Budapest Agreement is serious, he said, but because Budapest wasn’t a treaty, it is not enforceable.
 
“Nuclear weapons have never prevented conventional conflicts,” Cirincione said.  “Israel was attacked conventionally long after it got nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan went to war long after both got nuclear weapons. China and Russia clashed conventionally long after both got nuclear weapons.”
 
Joseph CirincioneJoseph Cirincione
x
Joseph Cirincione
Joseph Cirincione

Cirincione disagrees that Ukraine’s crisis could have been prevented if Ukraine had kept nuclear weapons.

“Weapons only deter the use of other nuclear weapons,” he said.  “They don’t give states the kind of security that some people claim,” he said.

Cirincione said only two states are currently either looking to consolidate as a nuclear state or develop nukes, i.e., North Korea and Iran. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, recently reported Iran has diluted or converted nearly three-quarters of its weapons-grade stockpile, in accordance with the interim deal negotiated with the US, UK, Germany, France, Russia and China.
 
“There is growing international expectation that we are going to be able to get a deal with Iran by the July 20 deadline set by the interim agreement,” Cirincione. “If that happens, sanctions will start to be lifted and Iran will be open for business again.”

But that still leaves North Korea, which has continued with nuclear tests in defiance of U.S. sanctions and warnings from its only ally, China.

“North Korea already has nuclear weapons,” George Perkovich, director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“It has tested them.  There are no further arguments they need or would seek to justify whatever it is that they are doing.”

Like Cirincione, Perkovich does not view the crisis in Ukraine as a nuclear threat.  He said Russia has nuclear weapon forces and is attaching great status and importance to those precisely because the country has declined in recent years.

“Its economy is in trouble; its demographic situation is negative; its public health situation is negative. So countries in that kind of condition often have parades with missiles and tell their people, ‘Look!  We’re great!’” he said.

But Perkovich said that the crisis in Ukraine has a downside: It could make it much harder--both psychologically and politically--for U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladmir Putin to reduce their nuclear arsenals.
    
In 2010, Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START treaty, promising to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear missiles and launchers and commit to a series of annual nuclear inspections, a program that is ongoing.
 
­­­­­­

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Aruna from: Colombo
May 15, 2014 1:18 PM
The U.S. forign policy has been deeply flawed from the time Iraq was invaded by Obama's predecessor and has been on this destructive path under Obama at an even faster pace. It is rather surprising to me that the American public accept this systematic destruction of very important regions of the world causing misery to millions. The so called 'international coomunity' and the 'free press' are happy to tow the line relatively without criticism.

by: Hudson Maina from: kenya
May 14, 2014 2:26 PM
The whole saga of Ukraine was precipitated by US foreign policy of regime change gone badly after Russia stopped the party mid stream.Aftet this wait for the ramifications including resurgence of nuclear race

by: baldurdasche from: botswana
May 14, 2014 12:24 PM
Reading the text of the Budpest Memorandum, I'm inclined to think that, atomic weapons aside, virtually every other term of that agreement has been violated by one or more of the signatories on a number of occasions since it was signed.

Of course Ukraine has the same right as any other nation to abnegate the NNPT and become another 'rogue' nuclear state. I would hope that, for the sake of world peace, the UN would be prepared to deal with that situation as they have the one decried in Iran - which strangely enough has never abrogated its obligations under the NNPT.

by: meanbill from: USA
May 14, 2014 11:15 AM
"What difference does it make" was a famous response to another question -- (BUT?) -- does it really matter, if they build more nuclear bombs to destroy the earth, when they already possess enough nuclear bombs to destroy the earth over ten times? --
Would the nuclear weapons have altered the Ukraine crisis? -- The Ukraine crisis was, and is, an internal uprising and coup on the Ukraine government, (and the opposition to the coup leaders), and the Ukrainians themselves are responsible for it's beginning and outcome? --- It was NOT an external attack on Ukraine.... REALLY

by: sebastian from: New jersy
May 14, 2014 11:04 AM
Kiev sold Ukraine like a cheap prostitute to the vice president son John Biden! !!. Where are the pro Ukrine protesters now???

by: Alexander M Swan from: Edison, New Jersey
May 14, 2014 9:55 AM
All issues in the world can be should be resolved fairly with mutual respect and mutual benefit without playing the game of taking advantage every step on the way to achieve the goal of middle ground to preserve peace and prosperity for all.

by: Eric from: California
May 14, 2014 9:54 AM
Isn't this "revelation" a bit late? Under Budapest, NONE of the signatories should have been "mucking around" in the Ukraine at any time. ALL of the signatories were bound by it not to send in money, or undeclared agents of any type. ALL of the signatories need this agreement to insure their own safety. That includes Russia. Did they not need The Budapest accord most of all? Bad movie, add a love story.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More