Remember when you were told that Ukraine didn’t have “operational control” of third nuclear arsenal in 90s, guess what, russia didn’t have complete control either

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Once many in the West believed that this [russian-Ukrainian] war would end in three days, three weeks, three months in Ukraine’s total disintegration – quick, and however cynical it may sound, “clean”. Now, it seems, many start to believe that it will end in Ukraine’s surrender on different terms. No Kyiv, Odesa, Dnipro, Kherson, Kharkiv, yet, but a surrender nonetheless, even if delayed. I have bad news for those people who expect to wrap this “small European conflict” for good. It is not going to happen. This is an existential war as much for russians as it is for us. This war is centuries old, give hundred-plus years and it will be a thousand, so it will never end with anything short of a russian defeat on our territories, Ivan Gdan writes for

Throughout almost all of 2023, and even more expected in 2024, there was a lot of rumbling in the West whether it’s economically sound to support Ukraine further. The US, Slovakia, Hungary, the natural ally of any aggressor as it seems by now, and Poland with their blockade of border crossings with Ukraine during the biggest war with russia in this century. It seems to some that it is much cheaper to abandon Ukraine. Right? Well, no. But let’s talk for a second not only about the money. We will talk about that too, don’t you fret.

So what is happening at the moment? Ukraine needs much more support to succeed. That is for sure. But that was well known long before this point, long before the ill-conceived counteroffensive that was pushed by the West just a little too much. It is funny how the Western media called the counteroffensive unsuccessful without the West providing even half of what was needed to succeed according to the Western understanding of how to wage a war. Not enough on any level, and definitely not enough of modern fighter jets, which was zero, or long-range missiles, the number and range of which remains unclear.

Among other things, of course, the problem was some bullshit reassurances in the form of the Budapest Memorandum that the US, the UK, and russia [China and France gave somewhat weaker individual assurances in separate documents], if anything could have been weaker than that, will somehow defend Ukraine, maybe, if Ukraine will surrender its third nuclear arsenal in the world. I know that there is a false belief that “Ukraine had physical but no operational control” of those weapons. And you can believe whatever you want to believe, even that this so-called operational control couldn’t be breached. Or believe that the most advanced soviet ICBMs [176 intercontinental ballistic missiles: 130 liquid-fuel SS-19 [six warheads each], and 46 solid-fuel SS-24 [ten warheads each], which were developed in Ukraine, couldn’t be reprogrammed by Ukraine, or believe that from 30 to 43 Tu-95MS and Tu-160 strategic bombers and from 1,514 to 2,156 nuclear warheads for strategic weapons; and from 2,800 to 4,200 tactical nuclear warheads needed any reprogramming at all.

There is a russian narrative that most of those tactical warheads were stolen by russia before 1992, but like with any information that comes from russia you need to take it with a grain of salt. Only in this case, you would need a pound. So you can believe that some kind of almost mythical “nuclear briefcase” was all that was needed to launch a nuclear strike. Instead, it was always and remains a chain of command. Yes, some codes might be there, maybe some coordinates where to strike, maybe, but nothing else. The fact is that nobody really knows, because it is classified, but “somehow” a main narrative is what russia wants you to believe.

According to open sources, the Soviet nuclear briefcase was developed in the early 1980s and was called Cheget [named after Mount Cheget in Kabardino-Balkaria] and a part of the automatic system for the command and control named Kazbek [named after Mount Kazbek on the Georgia–russia border]. What is interesting though that the initial service life of that Kazbek system was only 10 years, and it had to be urgently modernized in the 90s in order to maintain “an appropriate level of nuclear safety,” as the open sources say, but it is most likely that it had to be modernized to maintain any operability at all. Especially after the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

What russians admit themselves is that there was a catastrophic lack of funds to operate this system, while the situation was aggravated by the fact that after the collapse of the USSR, almost all microelectronic production of the former Union ended up abroad. In this regard, in February of 1997, russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov warned then president Boris Yeltsin that the situation with nuclear safety in the country was critical, and a month later, the russian Ogonyok magazine began to express concerns that in the future the president would carry no real “nuclear briefcase”, but only a dummy due to the impossibility of repair. In 1998, all the technicians left one of the closed enterprises due to non-payment of salaries, which threatened the existence of the entire system of warning and response to a nuclear attack.

According to the russian Wikipedia, citing documents published by the non-profit organization National Security Archive, in September of 1994, during negotiations between Boris Yeltsin and his American counterpart Bill Clinton, the russian president expressed the idea that both leaders should abandon the use of nuclear briefcases in the future, entrusting the operation of nuclear weapons to modern technical systems. Clinton opposed the idea, saying that the nuclear briefcase was an important symbol of human control over the military and nuclear weapons in general. In 1997, at another meeting, Yeltsin again proposed abandoning nuclear briefcases and using a hypothetical computer to control nuclear weapons in both the United States and russia. However, Clinton refused for the second time.

So when any “expert” says that Ukraine didn’t have the so-called operational control of the nuclear weapons, guess what, maybe russia didn’t have one either. And this, of course, poses a question of how completely detached from the reality of what really happened those experts might actually be.

Finally, I think it is the right time to talk about the money, about the cash equivalent of that third nuclear arsenal in the world. Because many, according to the mainstream media, seem to be very concerned about how much it will cost to support Ukraine. I think it is also fair to ask how much money the West didn’t spend to get rid of Ukraine’s nuclear arsenal. It is important to understand how much it was worth back then, but also important to grasp how much it could have been worth right now and add the imaginary costs for the Western partners to counter this new-old “threat.”

I am no policymaker, but in my opinion, the West made the wrong call, but since the West claimed that Ukraine will be safe, it has to deliver. There are, of course, millions of “fine text” idiosyncrasies in the Budapest Memorandum of why the West doesn’t have to do anything at all, but the truth is – the West made the wrong call, and now We are paying the price.

And don’t get me wrong, all of us, Ukrainians, deeply appreciate the support from everyone who was and is willing to provide it. We will never forget that. But somehow we keep dying every day of the week, while some of your governments debate what is economically sound. We never wanted this war, but we have no choice to back down from it, so we won’t.

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