Growing up during the Cold War, young Atomic Reporters were familiar with the word “Kremlinology.” That art of signal reading has steadily declined over time, as demonstrated by Google’s Ngram Viewer, which compiles the number of times authors use words in published literature.
The decline of Kremlinology has contributed to many people wondering whether the Crimean dispute is going to affect negotiations with Iran. While the U.S. insists that the two issues be kept separate and that the Ukraine spat shouldn’t jeopardize the Iran-nuclear negotiation, it’s far from clear whether Moscow sees the issue quite the same.
Enter Vladimir Putin in his RT interview last June. It didn’t receive much coverage among Western news outlets. Those that wrote about the interview did so derisively. That’s too bad, because if a person can get past the high-octane spin, there was some important signaling going on about how Russia interprets U.S. interest in keeping Iran on the hot seat.
John Mearsheimer got top billing this week on the Global Security Newswire. Elaine Grossman dug up the University of Chicago professor’s 1993 fringe theory on nuclear proliferation:
“As soon as it declared independence, Ukraine should have been quietly encouraged to fashion its own nuclear deterrent,” the University of Chicago scholar wrote in a 1993 Foreign Policy piece. “A nuclear Ukraine … is imperative to maintain peace between Ukraine and Russia. … Ukraine cannot defend itself against a nuclear-armed Russia with conventional weapons, and no state, including the United States, is going to extend to it a meaningful security guarantee.”
GSN then let Mearsheimer, who is no stranger to controversy, double down on his Strangelovian musing about nuclear weapons in Ukraine:
“I do think they should have kept their nukes,” he said on Sunday via email. “If Ukraine had a real nuclear deterrent, the Russians would not be threatening to invade it.”
The comments may not have raised eyebrows had they appeared in another publication. Yet they were printed under the Nuclear Threat Initiative banner. NTI is of course that vital “nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a mission to strengthen global security by reducing the risk of use and preventing the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.”
Ironically, Soviet nuclear weapons were removed from Ukraine under the auspices of Senator Sam Nunn’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Who is the co-Chairman and CEO of NTI? None other than, Mr. Nunn himself.
Jeremy Bernstein has a pretty good piece up at the NYRB’s blog. Unfortunately, he nearly lost us half-way through with this assertion:
“…following the 1994 agreement, trains began moving Ukraine’s nuclear stockpile to disarmament facilities in Russia. About five thousand nuclear related devices were moved out on some one hundred trains. The operation was completed in 1996 and Ukraine joined the small club of nuclear states, which now includes Libya and South Africa, that have voluntarily given up their nuclear arsenals. In the 1990s, Belarus and Kazakstan also gave up their weapons. But the vast store of tactical and strategic bombs turned over by Ukraine was by far the largest in this group. In 2012 the last of Ukraine’s supply of highly enriched uranium was turned over to Russia.”
You get that in the middle? Libya had a “nuclear arsenal?” Not according to Atomic Reporters who were in Tripoli and described Qaddafi’s atomic work as a:
“Small unsuccessful enrichment program. No effort to even design a weapon let alone build one, let alone an arsenal.”
If Libya is going to be lumped with South Africa, which did indeed possess nuclear weapons, where should we place Sweden and Switzerland?