The Weakness of a Ukrainian Nuclear Deterrent: Counterfactuals and the Stability-Instability Paradox

(updated below)

Since the Russian incursion in Crimea at the end of February, a meme has been circulating among some national security commentators that Ukraine should have kept the nuclear arsenal it inherited following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The most forceful proponent that Kiev would have been better off maintaining a nuclear deterrent was and is University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer. At the end of the Cold War, Mearsheimer argued in Foreign Affairs (pdf),

A nuclear Ukraine makes sense for two reasons. First, it is imperative to maintain peace between Russia and Ukraine… Ukraine cannot . . .
read more

Saddam, Iran, and the Stability-Instability Paradox: Can Israel's "Samson Option" Hold?

Following a post from a few months back, I was pointed in the direction of an intriguing study by Duke University’s Hal Brands and David Palkki of the National Defense University that is germane to the current debates over a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program and its implications for Israeli security (h/t Zach Novetsky).  “Saddam, Israel, and the Bomb: Nuclear Alarmism Justified?”, published last summer in International Security, is the result of countless hours pouring over documents captured after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The implications of Brands and Palkki’s findings for Israeli security are alarming but . . .
read more

A MAD, MAED World?

A recent report from the RAND Corporation seeks to elucidate several scenarios by which the United States and China could become embroiled in armed conflict.  While much will be made of a single sentence at the beginning of the report that predicts the possibility of a China stronger than Soviet Russia during the Cold War or Nazi Germany during World War II—and despite providing excellent summaries of potential East Asian flashpoints—the authors actually judge the probability of great power conflict in the Asia-Pacific to be relatively low.  More interesting are the recommendations offered for decreasing conflict—particularly, the section on . . .
read more

The Korean Peninsula: Are More Nuclear Weapons the Answer?

Recently at 38 North, a blog providing analysis of North Korea, Ralph Cossa had an interesting post discussing two possibilities for providing South Korea with nuclear protection beyond the U.S. strategic nuclear umbrella.  First, South Korea could pursue its own nuclear weapons program.  Seoul had looked into an indigenous nuclear arsenal prior to signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1975, but gave it up in light of strengthened U.S. security guarantees. Given its robust economy, it could easily restart the effort if it was seen as desirable.  The second option deals with the possible redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons—removed . . .
read more