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How the Ukraine Situation Has Increased Nuclear Proliferation
Before the Soviet Union broke up, its thousands of nuclear warheads on missiles was spread all over. But nowhere were there more than in the Ukraine, some 1800, to be exact. At the time, pre-1993. only the US and Russia had more! The Ukraine's arsenal was first rate and able to survive a first strike.
President Clinton in 1994 made their removal a priority because there was fear that they may end up in the wrong hands. With the Ukraine being a newly formed nation, it agreed to turn over them to Russia in exchange that Russia recognized the Ukraine as an independent country. It also agreed not to use force or threats of force against it. Several nations agreed and signed the "Budapest Memorandum" including the USA, China, France and others. The officials in Kiev, then, were greatly worried Russia would do just the opposite.
So, the Ukraine, which had a first rate nuclear arsenal, relied on the West to secure its future and in return, gave up nuclear weapons that had this not happened, Putin might not have acted so boldly in seizing the Crimea and who knows what else. Nuclear weapons, even 100 of them, do deter bully nations.
Originally, the Ukraine wanted many years to remove their nukes. They were skeptical of assurances from the West and did not trust Russia. But, the USA insisted they remove them by 1996, and it was done. Since then, Russia seemed to kept its promise, but they used economic and political pressure to coerce the Ukraine. Today, there is no doubt the Ukraine government regrets giving up their nukes because the West really is powerless for the most part. The assurance given by the West in 1994 ring hollow now. With 20,000 mechanized Russian troops on the Ukrainian border and the Ukraine struggling to recruit 40,000 men to fight if invaded, even having one nuke may be of benefit.
But worse, the argument by the West to prohibit nuclear weapon proliferation is badly damaged now. Iran and North Korea will be even more resistant to not going nuclear. The argument that only a handful of countries can possess is weakened because had the Ukraine been able to keep some of them, the situation may not be as it is now. The Ukraine situation damages America's assurances to other countries who do not have nuclear weapons to protect them. If Putin invades Ukraine, Obama will look like a fool with his sanctions. Can you imagine Obama issuing orders to attack Russia? No. That is exactly what Putin is thinking. I mean, Obama could not even toss a few cruise missiles at Assad in Syria.
Many other countries are thinking of going nuclear to deter bully nations. These are Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia. Pakistan and India already have them. Nuclear weapons does deter aggression. Of course, a major military power like America deters aggression also but only if there is a "will" to use it. To much caution is just as dangerous. If there are many situations where a superpower threatens but never follows through, the world bullies get the wrong impression and act with impunity just like Putin is doing.
President Obama's inaction has increased the potential of nuclear proliferation by smaller countries who feel they cannot trust America to defend them. That is the irony of the Ukrainian crisis.