News / Europe

US Lawmakers Worry Ukraine Crisis Will Impact Nuclear Proliferation

Soldiers prepare to destroy a ballistic SS-19 missile in the yard of the largest former Soviet military rocket base in Vakulenchuk, 220 kilometers (137 miles) west of Kyiv,  Dec. 24, 1997.
Soldiers prepare to destroy a ballistic SS-19 missile in the yard of the largest former Soviet military rocket base in Vakulenchuk, 220 kilometers (137 miles) west of Kyiv, Dec. 24, 1997.
Michael Bowman
U.S. senators debating aid to Ukraine say Russia's annexation of Crimea decades after Kyiv surrendered its nuclear arsenal could weaken nuclear non-proliferation efforts around the world.  The argument is one of many being voiced on Capitol Hill for a strong U.S. response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

In 1994, world powers, including Russia, pledged to uphold Ukraine’s territorial integrity in return for Kyiv giving up what was then the world’s third-largest nuclear weapons stockpile.

Democratic Senator Richard Durbin says Russia has broken its word.

“Russia has not only reneged on that promise, it has invaded Ukraine. [This is] not just a question of the survival of the Ukrainian government, but also a question as to whether or not civilized countries around the world [that are] trying to lessen the threat of nuclear weapons will stand with one voice and condemn the Russians for what they have done," said Durbin.

Durbin said nations aspiring to become nuclear powers or expand an existing arsenal are watching events in Ukraine and drawing dangerous conclusions.  That point was echoed by Republican Senator Marco Rubio.

“Think about if you are one of the countries around the world right now that feels threatened by your neighbors," said Rubio. "And the United States and the rest of the world are going to you and saying, ‘Do not develop nuclear weapons, South Korea.  Do not develop nuclear weapons, Japan.  Do not develop nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia.  We will protect you.  We will watch out for you.’  What kind of lesson do you think this instance [in Ukraine] sends to them?”

Rubio said Russia’s annexation of Crimea and possible further expansion into Ukraine will make nations around the world question security commitments made to them, and could lead them to conclude that they, too, must either build or cling to nuclear weapons to remain safe.

Analyst Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies doubts Ukraine’s experience will factor into decisions made by other governments.

“I think they draw their conclusions on the basis of local threats, and not on the basis of Ukraine.  Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea are not going to give up [their weapons], and the countries that can acquire nuclear weapons or are trying to, like Iran, are going to make these choices based on other criteria," said Cordesman.

At the Capitol, however, many senators warn of dangers if vulnerable countries conclude that world powers cannot or will not stand up for them.  Some describe the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s actions as insufficient, and are urging military aid for Ukraine as well as U.S. natural gas exports to Europe to lessen the region’s dependency on Russian energy.

The Senate bill being debated would provide loan guarantees to Ukraine, codify penalties against Russian officials, and shift America’s contributions to the International Monetary Fund in a way that could facilitate additional loans to Kyiv.  Expected to pass this week, the bill would have to be reconciled with separate legislation in the House of Representatives.

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Comment Sorting
by: heho from: Kenya
March 26, 2014 12:51 PM
US attacks Iraq , Afghanistan, Libya ya

by: meanbill from: USA
March 25, 2014 11:25 PM
THE WISE MAN said it; ... US Senator Durbin is right on one point?
The US and NATO, with some EU non-NATO members attacked tiny defenseless countries who never possessed a nuclear bomb, like Serbia, and Libya .. (AND?) .. attacked larger countries that had no air defenses, or nuclear weapons, like Afghanistan and Iraq...
The best defense against being attacked by the US, EU, and NATO, is to get the nuclear bomb as fast as they can, like North Korea, India, Pakistan, China, Israel, and Russia..
The US, EU, and NATO, are the only countries in the world, attacking countries without nuclear weapons.. ..... REALLY

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
March 25, 2014 8:49 PM
Today Lavrov made my hand fall limp. I had expected him to advice Russia to keep away from the nuclear summit, instead he was there beggarly groveling behind countries that have open mouths to swallow Russia. He, like Man U (did you see Manchester United flop 0-3 at Old Trafford today?), fluffed the country's chances of getting the world on its knees asking Russia to return to the negotiating table. He threw away all the aces his country had advantage of. Where is Russia's strength which makes Iran prove stubborn? If this little shaking is able to crack Russia, then there is nothing good enough in Russia's bloc of power. And China is likewise sissy. I hate the bandwagon trait of western Europe. It's absolutely senseless. Right now all I have in the world is failed states: USA is devilish; Russia is powerless, and China no good for anything except in flooding world markets with substandard goods and smile to bank with fat bank account. It is ready to do anything in so far as USA does not sneeze on account. Right now the world in search of a reliable country to rival USA whose hell-bent on demolishing morals seems to have no bounds.

by: Not Again from: Canada
March 25, 2014 7:43 PM
Senator Durbin does not see the big strategic picture, and it is- the deterrence value of the Western block has sunk so low, that authoritarian regimes see no risk in actions that violate the integrity/borders of other nations. If they saw a great risk as a result of their actions, they would not undertake them. Such low deterrent value has increased global instability. And unfortunately the peace dividend, that many of this people promoted, can't be found, the economies of the West are barely getting by. Lack of deterrent value is extremely dangerous to peace. For the last few years, many have sounded the alarm, but it fell on ignorant (lack of knowledge) ears.

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