Inheriting the Bomb: Soviet Collapse and Denuclearization of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, 1990-1994

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 International Affairs Building)

Please join the Ukrainian Studies Program at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University for a presentation by Mariana Budjeryn (Research Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center).

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 of nuclear 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.

Mariana Budjeryn is a research fellow with the International Security and Managing the Atom programs at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. Mariana earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations from Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Hungary and her B.A. in Political Science from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine. Her current research examines the role of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime in the nuclear disarmament of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Her analytical contributions on post-Soviet disarmament and the current Ukrainian-Russian crisis have appeared in The Nonproliferation Review, Harvard International Review, World Affairs Journal, Arms Control Today, Krytyka, and the Wilson Center publications.

This event is free and open to the public.