The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to several problems: the economic collapse, the revival of the mafia, the financial pyramids …
But the rest of the world was more concerned about the future of Soviet nuclear weapons after the end of the world’s superpower.
All former nuclear warheads of the USSR were kept in four independent states: RussiaAnd the BelarusKazakhstan and Ukraine.
Initially, Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced that Russia It would not have individual control over the entire nuclear arsenal of the USSR.
On December 21, 1991, the four countries that inherited nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union signed a joint control treaty in the capital of Kazakhstan.
Nine days later, the representatives of the four countries met again, this time in Minsk. There they signed another treaty on the creation of a joint command of the “strategic forces”. On December 25, between the two meetings, Mikhail Gorbachev, who had stepped down from the presidency of the Soviet Union, handed over the nuclear dossier on the control of nuclear weapons to Boris Yeltsin.
Mikhail Gorbachev presents the decree ceding control of nuclear weapons to Russian President Boris Yeltsin after it is signed at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 25, 1991 – Photo: AP File
The agreement states that any decision to launch nuclear weapons must be made Russia necessarily in coordination with the leaders UkraineKazakhstan and Belarus With the permission of the other member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
However, according to Vilen Timoshuk, a colonel in the 43rd Missile Division, one of the most powerful units in this sector, “No chief Ukraineor any other country that could affect the missile launch [nucleares]because the launch codes were issued only from the central command center located in Russia“.
Western countries and Russia She was not satisfied with the situation.
The then US Secretary of State, James Baker, recalled the situation in an interview with Forbes magazine. Russia: “Yeltsin explained to me, with unprecedented honesty, how the nuclear and nuclear weapons program would develop within the Commonwealth of Independent States.”
He explained who will have the launch button and who won’t, and what the leaders will be UkraineAnd the Belarus And Kazakhstan thought about it, and told them they thought they would get nuclear weapons, when in fact they would never have.”
The United States was the main mediator for resolving the nuclear crisis, and proposed a different solution: the entire nuclear arsenal should remain only in Russia.
“We really wanted to deal with just one country, not four countries,” Becker said. “We didn’t want to end up with four more countries with nuclear weapons.”
The problem was that the life of many nuclear warheads stored in the Soviet republics would expire in 1997. Storage facilities, at that time, were overcrowded, and their safe maintenance and dismantling required significant financial and technological resources. None of the CIS countries had the resources to do so.
President Russia He then announced that Moscow would not accept “dangerous warheads” after 1997, according to his Ukrainian counterpart at the time, Leonid Kravchuk. This means that Moscow gave the go-ahead to receive and store all warheads, but only immediately.
Kazakhstan, which inherited the second largest nuclear test site on the planet, Semipalatinsk, quietly handed over its arsenal in 1992. According to President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was in power from 1990 until March 2019, the state did this with the goal of the safety of all mankind. In return, he received military equipment and investments.
The Belarus The agreement to withdraw the nuclear arsenal was signed in 1994 in exchange for guarantees of its safety. The Ukraine They don’t want to hand over their weapons.
“It was a mistake. The “eternal” President Alexander Lukashenko later said that it was a very expensive product, which, after all, should have been sold at an affordable price.
However, after a referendum held in Belarus In 2022, during the military actions in UkraineCountry Passes a new constitution that revokes its “non-nuclear” status.
With the new constitution, nuclear weapons can be placed on Earth Belarus For the first time since the state gave up warheads.
Lukashenko said he could ask Russia To return nuclear weapons to Belarus. “If you (Western countries) transfer nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania to our borders, I will ask Putin to return the nuclear weapons that I gave him without any conditions,” he said.
Alexander Lukashenko during his inauguration as president – Photo: Andrei Stasevich / Belta / AFP
After the fall of the USSR, Ukraine It became the third country with the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, after the United States and Russia. On the Ukrainian territory, there were ICBMs aimed directly at the United States and about 1240 warheads.
The permanent delegate said to Ukraine At the United Nations, Yuri Sergeev, for UN Radio.
The United States was concerned and set a condition. They said if we don’t get the warheads from UkraineNot only will the pressure start, the country will suffer from the blockade. “Sanctions” and “blockade” were the words he used, said Kravchuk – still blamed for disarmament by many Ukrainians to this day.
“if it was Ukraine They did not give up nuclear weapons, no one will recognize them as an independent country,” noted in 2011 the Chairman of the Supreme Council of the People’s Republic of China UkraineVolodymyr Lytvyn.
In 1994, Kyiv signed a memorandum on the delivery of nuclear warheads in exchange for guarantees of its territorial integrity and economic aid. The Ukraine Received $175 million from the United States to eliminate nuclear weapons.
In 2000, Moscow repaid a debt of 1.099 billion US dollars from Ukraine. However, Kyiv was still not satisfied and wanted another $3 billion in compensation from Russia.
At the end of 1996, the nuclear arsenal of the former republics was completed. from there, Russia The United States will begin a long process of nuclear disarmament.
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