57 Items

Analysis & Opinions - Lawfare

Ukraine's Nuclear Moment

  • Eric Ciaramella
| Apr. 25, 2023

Mariana Budjeryn's Inheriting the Bomb tells the story of how Ukraine came into possession of the world's third-largest nuclear arsenal—larger than the combined stockpiles of China, France, and the United Kingdom at the time—and decided to disarm peacefully a few years later. Ukraine's denuclearization was far from a straightforward process. After initially renouncing nuclear weapons, Ukrainian officials sought recognition that their newly independent country was a rightful heir to part of the Soviet cache, deserving of equal treatment, financial compensation, and pledges that disarmament would not endanger Ukraine's security. 

Topol-M at Red Square during May 9 Victory Day Parade in Moscow

Wikimedia Commons

News - The Insider

Putin's recent nuclear deployment aimed at fueling “nuclear anxieties” in the West and tightening control over Belarus, experts say

| Mar. 27, 2023

Dr. Mariana Budjeryn, Senior Research Associate, Project on Managing the Atom (MTA) at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center:

The announcement of Russia’s decision to deploy nuclear weapons to Belarus is the continuation of Russia’s tactic to use nuclear saber-rattling to induce nuclear anxieties in the West. In terms of military utility, Russian nuclear deployments to Belarus don’t change anything. Russia has plenty of bases, delivery systems and nuclear weapons deployed on its own territory, some of them very close to the Ukrainian border, that could serve the same mission as anything deployed to Belarus. So the move is purely political.  

Dr. Stephen Herzog, Senior Researcher, ETH Zurich, Center for Security Studies:

Putin's statement about moving Russian tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus is, of course, concerning. The forward deployment of nuclear weapons to regions close to conflict zones increases risks of escalation, nuclear weapons use, and misperception. Although, there is no evidence yet that the Kremlin has moved any of its arsenal to Belarus. But I expect to see reports from open-source intelligence analysts in the near- to medium-term future tracking any potential movement of warheads from Russia to Belarus.

Photo of Street in Ukraine

Mariana Budjeryn

Analysis & Opinions - Inkstick

A Journey to the Edge of War and Peace

| Jan. 24, 2023

At the end of December 2022, I traveled to Ukraine to spend a couple weeks with my mom and celebrate old-calendar Christmas. I had not been back since the war started.

Since Feb. 24, 2022, I have followed the war closely, reading everything I could in reputable and not-so-reputable outlets, countless Twitter threads, and Telegram channels, talking daily with my mom, and staying in touch with Ukrainian colleagues and friends. I told my kids to be good, to mind their grades, and to learn to become more self-sufficient, their mother is off to war with Russia, and plunged into work, sharing what counted as my expertise on the history of Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament and Russian nuclear threats in countless interviews, podcasts, conferences, and articles, in English and Ukrainian. I responded to all requests, from CNN to a Jewish radio station in Pretoria. That, and donating to whatever drives hit my radar was the least I could do, I thought.

Book - Johns Hopkins University Press

Inheriting the Bomb: The Collapse of the USSR and the Nuclear Disarmament of Ukraine

| Dec. 27, 2022

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left its nearly 30,000 nuclear weapons spread over the territories of four newly sovereign states: Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. This collapse cast a shadow of profound ambiguity over the fate of the world's largest arsenal of the deadliest weapons ever created. In Inheriting the Bomb, Mariana Budjeryn reexamines the history of nuclear predicament caused by the Soviet collapse and the subsequent nuclear disarmament of the non-Russian Soviet successor states.

Although Belarus and Kazakhstan renounced their claim to Soviet nuclear weapons, Ukraine proved to be a difficult case: with its demand for recognition as a lawful successor state of the USSR, a nuclear superpower, the country became a major proliferation concern. And yet by 1994, Ukraine had acceded to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear-weapon state and proceeded to transfer its nuclear warheads to Russia, which emerged as the sole nuclear successor of the USSR.

How was this international proliferation crisis averted? Drawing on extensive archival research in the former Soviet Union and the United States, Budjeryn uncovers a fuller and more nuanced narrative of post-Soviet denuclearization. She reconstructs Ukraine's path to nuclear disarmament to understand how its leaders made sense of the nuclear armaments their country inherited. Among the various factors that contributed to Ukraine's nuclear renunciation, including diplomatic pressure from the United States and Russia and domestic economic woes, the NPT stands out as a salient force that provided an international framework for managing the Soviet nuclear collapse.

- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Preventing Another Cuban Missile Crisis

| Fall 2022

The Belfer Center’s Project on Managing the Atom, Intelligence Project, and Applied History Project organized a day-long conference in October to mark the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis and to discuss what we’ve learned from the CMC. Managing the Atom’s Mariana Budjeryn discusses the relevance of those lessons for today’s conflict in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Armed Forces use M777 howitzers donated due to the 2022 Russian invasion

Ukrainian Ground Forces via Wikimedia Commons

Journal Article - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Distressing a system in distress: global nuclear order and Russia’s war against Ukraine

| Nov. 08, 2022

While prosecuting its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has relied heavily on nuclear threats, turning the war in Ukraine into a dangerous nuclear crisis with profound implications for the global nuclear order and its two constitutive systems of nuclear deterrence and nuclear restraint. These two interconnected systems, each aiming to manage nuclear possession and reduce the risk of nuclear use, are at once complimentary and contradictory. While tensions between these systems are not new, the war in Ukraine exacerbates them in unprecedented ways. The system of nuclear deterrence seems to be proving its worth by inducing restraint on Russia and NATO, while the system of restraint is undermined by demonstrating what happens to a country not protected by nuclear deterrence. The latter lesson is particularly vivid given Ukraine’s decision to forgo a nuclear option in 1994 in exchange for security assurances from nuclear powers. Russia’s use of nuclear threats as an enabler for escalation and the specter of Russian tactical nuclear use against Ukraine goes well beyond its declared nuclear doctrine. The outcome of the war in Ukraine thus has critical importance for deciding the value of nuclear weapons in global security architecture and for resolving the conundrum between the systems of deterrence and restraint.

A Russian serviceman guards in an area of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in territory under Russian military control on May 1, 2022

Associated Press

Analysis & Opinions - The Boston Globe

Factoring the human dimension of Putin’s takeover of Ukraine’s nuclear power plant

| Oct. 24, 2022

One of the most worrying and unprecedented exigencies created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the fate of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest. Occupied by Russian troops on March 4, the power plant is the repository of an enormous amount of radioactive material, contained in six nuclear reactor cores, spent fuel pools, and dry cask storage. The plant is also the workplace for some 11,000 people. Since taking over, Russia has turned the plant into a military base and used it as a pawn in its war with Ukraine and psychological war with the West.

On the right is Miklhail S. Gorbachev with then Belfer Center Director Graham Allison on the left. With a Harvard Kennedy School JFK Jr. Forum backdrop behind them. 

Martha Stewart

News - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s Legacy

Former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who is known for ending the Cold War, dissolving the Soviet Union, and changing the map of Europe, died Tuesday, August 30. He was 91.

We asked several Center experts for their thoughts on Gorbachev and his impacts – and how his life and actions are relevant to the challenges the world faces today.

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News - WBUR

The people of Ukraine on life during war

| May 24, 2022

Today marks three months since Russia invaded Ukraine. For many Ukrainians, that milestone is sinking in. "Now there is a certain plateauing, there's a certain leveling out. On the one hand, you know, the war has entered our everyday reality," Mariana Budjeryn says. "And on the other hand, you're battling the instinct to normalize it." As the war grinds on, how do Ukrainians see things?