Inheriting the bomb: Soviet collapse and denuclearization of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, 1990-1994

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September 26 @ 12:00 pm2:00 pm

The dramatic collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991 presented the world with an unprecedented challenge: some 29,000 Soviet strategic and tactical nuclear weapons suddenly found themselves on the territory of not one but four new sovereign nations: the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. While Russia inherited more than two-thirds of the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal and its status as a recognized nuclear weapons state, the scale of nuclear inheritance of the non-Russian republics was nevertheless staggering: Ukraine became home to the third-largest and Kazakhstan – the fourth-largest strategic nuclear arsenal in the world. By 1994, the three non-Russian Soviet successors relinquished their nuclear inheritance and joined the international nonproliferation regime as non-nuclear-weapons states. What could have been the greatest single wave ofnuclear proliferation in history had been successfully averted. The talk is an exploration of how this happened and why. It exposes the dilemmas and ambiguities of post-Soviet nuclear predicaments and looks at how the divergent interpretations political leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine developed regarding their nuclear inheritance affected the path of these countries toward nuclear disarmament.

A presentation by Mariana Budjeryn (Research Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center).

Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 International Affairs Building). This event is free and open to the public.


September 26
12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
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New York City, United States