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

Understanding the Turmoil in Ukraine

Summer 2014

In 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union imminent, international security scholars at the then Center for Science and International Affairs began preparing a plan of action for addressing the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal that was scattered among the soon-to-be-independent republics. The Center experts’ aim was to ensure that nuclear weapons and materials in Ukraine and other territories not make their way into the hands of terrorists.

To those of us familiar with nuclear weapons…and with the looming revolution about to sweep the then–Soviet Union, it was plain that a new and unprecedented danger to international security was emerging.…Safety could only be sought through new policies emphasizing cooperative engagement with the new states…” wrote Graham Allison, Ashton Carter, Steven Miller, and Philip Zelikow in their 1993 book Cooperative Denuclearization: From Pledges to Deeds.

Among the steps proposed by the Center’s nuclear experts for the U.S. and other nations was the removal of strategic nuclear warheads from the new republics to safe and secure storage sites in Russia; the dismantling of U.S. and Russian Cold War weapons; and the placing of plutonium and enriched uranium from dismantled weapons into safeguarded storage.

In 1994, through the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, Ukraine gave up thousands of nuclear weapons in return for a promise by the U.S. and Russia not to use force against this post-Soviet republic as well as to respect its sovereignty within its existing borders.

In 2014, Ukraine gained the world's attention again as Russia annexed Crimea and protests flared in Ukraine.

See the timeline below for major events and Belfer Center comments on Ukraine.


The timeline below highlights major events and Belfer Center analysis on Ukraine since its early days of independence in the 1990s to the current crisis.

View full timeline graphic by clicking below:

Timeline of Belfer Center analysis on Ukraine
For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Understanding the Turmoil in Ukraine.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Summer 2014).