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2023 | Book

Russia’s War on Ukraine

The Implications for the Global Nuclear Order


About this book

This book explores how Russia’s War on Ukraine has changed the global nuclear order. The Russian aggression against Ukraine questioned the values of the liberal regimes and systems upon which the global nuclear order is built. At the heart of this nuclear order lies the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which remains until today the cornerstone of the global nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime.

In this context, the book examines new challenges and threats to the global nuclear order. It discusses the deterioration of nuclear norms, as well as the increasing number of the states further challenging the NPT regime by attempts to develop nuclear weapons. The book further sheds light on a growing number of states trying to resolve their territorial claims using the nuclear coercion and the umbrella function of their nuclear arsenals. The authors present the loopholes in the existing arms control system and the arms trade, which became obvious in the course of the war, and analyze the further split between the supporters of the NPT and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Srutinizing the deepening polarization of the supporters and the opponents of nuclear weapons, the book includes a new debate about the competing narratives on nuclear deterrence and disarmament. Finally, the volume discusses the development and the increase of new missiles and disruptive technologies such as hypersonic missiles, drones, and artificial intelligence.

This book will appeal to students and scholars of international relations and political science in general, and security studies, military and defense studies, peace and conflict studies, and foreign policy in particular, as well as policy-makers interested in a better understanding of nuclear deterrence, the global nuclear order, and the impact of Russia's war on Ukraine.

Table of Contents

Introduction: How Has Russia’s War on Ukraine Changed the Global Nuclear Order?
This chapter is a prime approach of the book, examining how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 changed the global nuclear order. The aim of this introductory chapter is to present the processes and stakes brought to light in this collective work. First, it draws a conceptual framework investigating how Russia transformed the global nuclear order by invading Ukraine. Second, it presents four tasks to respond to this challenge: exploring the reasons for such a study, understanding the implications of the war from a nuclear order perspective, assessing the situation, and detailing perspectives that it implies. Subsequently, the editors expose the paramount importance of exploring this topic, as it impacts international security and the global equilibrium of power. They examine Russia’s war on Ukraine, precise the global nuclear order’s context in which it occurred, and show the impact of the former to the latter. Finally, the chapter proposes a structure for the book, outlining the authors’ transversal guiding questions and introducing each chapter of the book. Overall, this introduction presents a general overview of the various approaches and issues proposed by this collective volume.
Adérito Vicente, Polina Sinovets, Julien Théron

The New Challenges and Threats to Global Nuclear Order

The Crisis of Global Security Architecture and Challenges for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Arms Control
Russia’s war on Ukraine has made the global and European security architecture crisis evident and accelerated changes in the international system. In order to stabilize, both European and global security architecture should be radically transformed, keeping key elements of the existing security architecture—arms control and nuclear nonproliferation. A new peace deal would concentrate on the influence Russia’s war on Ukraine will produce on these important spheres.
Sergiy Galaka
Irregular Nuclear Warfare: Operating Top-of-the-Spectrum Means in the Gray Zone under the Threshold of Reaction. A Predictive Approach to the Ukrainian Battlefield
Considering nuclear warfare through a contemporary war studies analysis does not lead to the same conclusion as strategic studies. Deterrence, avoidance, and equilibrium are indeed key concepts of a nuclear strategy in classical terms; however, contemporary war studies teach that nothing is impossible in an always-changing environment. Without trying to discredit or even contest strategic studies, contemporary war studies can bring a fresh, out-of-the-box approach to the plausibility of nuclear warfare in the twenty-first century. Mobilizing the Ukrainian battlefield—understood in the broadest sense by gathering all domains—seems particularly pertinent for several reasons. First, the Kremlin has waged war against Ukraine since 2014, revealing numerous innovative approaches to modern warfare’s means and concepts. Second, Moscow has never hesitated to increase the pressure on Kyiv, scaling up its mobilization to reach a strategic victory. Third, numerous occurrences have demonstrated that Russia’s leadership hinted at what they described as a legitimate use of their nuclear arsenal in Ukraine or against what it calls the “collective West”.
Julien Théron
Russia’s Nuclear Blackmail as a Threat to the Global Nuclear Order
The world has been facing Russia’s nuclear blackmail since the first day of a full-scale war against Ukraine: the invaders occupied Chornobyl, shelled the Neutron Source Research nuclear installation in Kharkiv, shelled Zaporizhzhia (ZAES) and then Rivne, Khmelnytsky, and Pivdennoukrainska (PAES). Without capturing Ukraine for 6 months of direct armed aggression, Russia has created new hybrid mechanisms with higher stakes. So, during the fall of 2022, we witnessed the birth of a new version of Russia’s nuclear strategy. The modern version has the main new feature of nuclear blackmail as a combination of traditional bomb threat rhetoric with threats of creating a situation of global catastrophe due to the destruction of nuclear power plants (NPPs) on the territory of Ukraine. The threat of nuclear power plants is considered more effective than the threat of a bomb, so if this tactic works, Russia will constantly repeat it in relation to other countries in the region.
Olga Brusylovska

Missile and Disruptive Technologies

Emerging and Disruptive Technologies in Russia’s War against Ukraine
At least three emerging and disruptive technologies (EDT) were used right from the opening phases of Russia’s War in Ukraine. Thanks to the operational experience, some of the hype and the unknowns surrounding those three categories of EDTs have now been reduced. Regarding hypersonic weapons, concerns and warnings about their destabilizing and disturbing impact were proven to be largely exaggerated. Yet, analysts should display caution in applying the lessons to future crises and conflict scenarios involving different adversaries, contingencies, and geostrategic circumstances. As for cyber threats, alarmism around them was also shown to be overblown. The evidence on the ground suggests that when both sides have moderate to advanced cyber defensive and offensive capabilities, the cyber playing field is quickly leveled. Finally, concerning counter-space activities, Russia attempted to harass and obstruct the services of third-party satellites used extensively by Ukraine. This signified an uptick mainly because counter-space techniques were used for the first time as part of an all-out war between two state adversaries. Still, Russia refrained from targeting those satellites themselves, possibly out of fear of escalation or reprisals. Instead, Russia’s counter-space activity picked on terrestrial elements of third-party satellites and took the shape of cyberattacks.
Sitki Egeli
Role of Missiles in Russia’s War on Ukraine and Its Implications for the Future of Warfare
In this chapter, the authors investigate the extensive use of missiles during the first 10 months of the Ukraine war, analyzing Russia’s missile attacks and its changing tactics, as well as Ukraine’s small missile arsenal bolstered by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supplies of Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). The authors examine Russia’s missile barrages against civil infrastructure and assess its stockpile based on open sources and previously known estimates. In addition, the authors briefly shed light on Russia’s extremely limited use of hypersonic aero-ballistic Kinzhal missiles, detailing possible targets hit and estimating the number of Kinzhal launchers. Also, the authors trace Ukraine’s missiles expertise to its Soviet heritage and analyze how effectively Ukraine has used missiles (and rockets) from both NATO and its stockpiles. Finally, the authors scope out potential future development scenarios for Ukraine’s own cutting-edge missile systems after the war’s end, considering its deep expertise in this field, military necessity, and incorporation of battlefield experience and tactics.
Miles Pomper, Vasilii Tuganov

Arms Control Deadlock and the Possible Ways Out

War in Ukraine and US–Russian Arms Control: Is It Needed? Is It Possible?
The Russian war on Ukraine has triggered the most acute international crisis in four decades and has put the nuclear disarmament agenda on the back burner, at least among nuclear weapon states. The network of agreements developed since the end of the Cold War is rapidly unraveling. Instead, the United States and Russia need to return to the original notion of arms control as it was conceptualized in the early 1960s—prevention or, at least, reduction of risk of nuclear war. Today, this task is more challenging than in the past as military balance is more complex and can no longer be limited just to nuclear weapons—it may need to incorporate long-range conventional weapons and missile defense. Both sides have declared interest in arms control, but whether domestic and international constraints will allow for serious engagement remains uncertain. The risk of an unrestricted arms race, including nuclear, remains dangerously high and it is likely that in 2026, after the expiration of New START, the two countries will, for the first time in decades live under conditions of unregulated nuclear balance.
Nikolai Sokov
Strategic Arms Control Deadlock and the Possible Ways Out
Strategic arms control was in crisis even before the renewed Russian attack against Ukraine in February 2022. The New START was the only treaty limiting strategic delivery systems and nuclear warheads of the United States and Russia. There was also no willingness from China to engage in arms control talks. After February 2022, US–Russia strategic stability dialogue (SSD) on a new arms control treaty was halted and is unlikely to be resumed without durable peace in Europe. The New START may not be succeeded in 2026 by a successor bilateral treaty. Alternatives to formal arms control agreements can be pursued, for example through work on the risk reduction agenda or strengthening global norms against nuclear use. However, these options have significant weaknesses as compared to formal strategic arms control. After the pause caused by the war, major nuclear powers can find it beneficial to re-engage in strategic arms control, which may need to move from a bilateral to a multilateral format.
Łukasz Kulesa
Gender Perspectives in Arms Control and the Risks Deriving from Russia’s War on Ukraine
This chapter addresses the connection between gender issues, weapons, disarmament, and arms control, underscoring a link that, while crucial, still fails to be duly recognized or given proper attention. The chapter offers an introduction to the topic, illustrating how the probability of becoming a victim of certain weapons can differ greatly depending on individuals’ physical and biological characteristics (sex) as well as on the cultural expectations assigned to individuals by society (gender). By providing a series of case studies, this chapter demonstrates how weapons can also produce different short and long-term effects on victims depending on their sex and/or gender. The link between gender and weapons is also explored from the angle of women’s meaningful participation in negotiation and peace processes. Finally, the chapter concludes by analyzing the Russian war on Ukraine, underlining the gender-specific risks deriving from the conflict.
Federica Dall’Arche

The NPT Regime: Competing Narratives on Nuclear Deterrence and Disarmament

Nuclear Deterrence in Russia’s War on Ukraine: The Credibility Dilemma
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, accompanied by the threats of nuclear weapons use, has raised a number of concerns regarding the global nuclear order. The article aims to analyze Russian nuclear threats in the context of the deterrence theory framework as well as deterrence policy components, defining limits and capabilities of nuclear coercion as well as deterrence effectiveness.
Polina Sinovets, Iryna Maksymenko
The Future of the Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament Regime
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022, led to a war between the two former republics of the Soviet Union. Moscow’s aggression marked a critical juncture and a deeply disturbing challenge to the current global nuclear order. It also deepened the breach in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, in which Kyiv committed to renunciate its Soviet-era inherited nuclear weapons in exchange for security assurances against the use of force that would potentially compromise Ukraine’s territorial integrity and political independence. This chapter focuses on comprehending the impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine on the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament regime and characterizes the kind of regime we face now. First, I analyze how this war weakened the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) regime. Second, I explore the current challenging issues for the regime, at both multilateral and bilateral levels. Third, and ultimately, I examine why renewing the commitment to arms control, nonproliferation, and nuclear disarmament dialogue is important to assure the future and survival of the NPT regime.
Adérito Vicente
U-Factor: Russia’s War on Ukraine and the Deterrence vs. Disarmament Discussion. Pragmatic Internationalism
Russia’s offensive war against Ukraine, led by explicit and implicit nuclear threats, exposed many core international challenges in the nuclear realm. A powerful yet dangerous message is out: security assurances failed, international security instruments failed, while nuclear deterrence works. Russia’s coercive applications of nuclear threats, continued reliance on nuclear weapons by the whole P5 against the spirit and obligations according to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), as well as solid opposition to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) as a legally binding disarmament mechanism incentivize proliferation and create additional risks. To avoid the complete erosion of the nonproliferation norm, expansion of the number of nuclear weapons possessors, and repeated invasive wars under nuclear threats, the international community should recognize the TPNW’s complementarity to the NPT and come to realistic and pragmatic gradual nuclear arms reductions.
Valeriia Hesse

The Impact of Russia’s War Against Ukraine on Regional Cases

Anchoring US–Russia Relations: Perspectives, Strategic Cultures, and Nuclear Posture
This chapter argues that the respective strategic cultures of the United States and Russia are reinforced through their nuclear doctrines, and explores the way they continue to anchor one another’s post-Cold War strategic outlook in this regard. Strategic culture is defined here as the mode of strategic thinking that political and strategic communities have been socialized into. The conditioning factors that are reinforced within their strategic cultures and nuclear postures are their geopolitical outlook; the maintenance of primacy; the defense of political values; and maintaining an extended political reach. The posture of the United States (US) has remained concerned with Russia, particularly in view of its nuclear capabilities. Yet other imminent or systemic threats have over the past decades taken a greater place within US strategy. On the other hand, Russia continues to see the US as a threat that is seeking to contain Russia. It is argued that Russia’s motivations in Ukraine may be understood in terms of the global influence and parity that it seeks to retain with the US, and indeed parity with China within the US strategy.
Valentina Cassar
NATO’s New Strategic Concept: The Changing Role of Nuclear Weapons, from Collective Security Back to Collective Defense
The strategic concept of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a tool historically used by the Euro-Atlantic community to create a common vision of deterrence and defense policy that is now also actively used to signal adversaries about the redlines. The twenty-first century has brought new challenges and reinforced old threats. These changes, which were made under a step-by-step process, are reflected in the working documents of the Alliance while building a common understanding of response among member states. Once a consensus was reached, the unclassified strategic concept was published. In 2010, it reflected a favorable strategic environment and hopes for nuclear zero, while in 2022 strategic concept was shaped by deteriorating world order and features a return to collective defense as a priority combined with a much higher focus on the role played by nuclear weapons. Russian unprovoked attack in February 2022 has played a decisive role in this strategy change, reinforced the unity of NATO, and pushed allies to translate strategic decisions into practical steps.
Tetiana Melnyk
How Did the Russian Invasion of Ukraine Influence Iran’s Approach to the Nuclear Threshold?
The Russian invasion of Ukraine and understanding of the political power of nuclear weapons strengthened Iranian belief in self-defense importance. It reflects in Iranian changing behavior, as it created new opportunities for Iran to advance its interests, such as Iran–Russia relations, which have reached an unprecedented peak: countries signed a $40 billion energy deal and the drone deal. After the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiations were deadlocked, the further deterioration of relations with the United States (US) and European Union (EU) continued and ultimately demonstrated the failure of the revival of the agreement or a new similar deal. The gap between sides was wider after the Biden Administration’s threat to use military force to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Accordingly, this chapter consists of the most important stumbling blocks in the JCPOA negotiations: the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iranian success in its missile and space programs, and the nationwide protests across the country. The Iranian strategic thinking, ambitions, and rivalry in the Middle East region explain the drastic change from negotiations to confrontation as soon as they see an opportunity in increased cooperation with Russia and China.
Valeriia Gergiieva
The Impact of Russia’s War against Ukraine on Finland and Sweden’s Decision to Join NATO: Effects on the Global Nuclear Order
Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine has caused a shift in the traditional nonalignment stance of Finland and Sweden, leading them to seek membership in the nuclear alliance. This change in security approach has implications for the global nuclear order, particularly in terms of nuclear disarmament and deployment. Despite the presence of public support for NATO membership in both countries, Finland and Sweden encountered challenges in their accession process. These challenges included Hungary’s delay in ratifying their applications and Türkiye’s conditional support to the accession of the two Nordic countries.
Adérito Vicente, Muhammed Ali Alkış, Iryna Maksymenko
Conclusion: Challenges and Prospects for the Current Global Nuclear Order
Articulating the major findings of this edited volume, this chapter assesses the implications of Russia’s War on Ukraine for the future of the global nuclear order. First, the new challenges and threats to the global nuclear order are examined. Second, the chapter glances at the impact of missile and disruptive technologies in Russia’s war against Ukraine. Third, new solutions and ways of overcoming the nuclear arms control deadlock are assessed, including the importance of adopting inclusive prevention, protection, and assistance strategies to address the gender-specific risks and needs resulting from the conflict. Fourth, by looking into competing narratives between nuclear deterrence and disarmament within the 1968 Treaty on the Nonproliteration of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) regime, this part offers three different perspectives on that debate. Fifth, the findings on the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on Regional Cases are evaluated. The chapter concludes with a discussion of a potential new paradigm of the global nuclear order.
Adérito Vicente, Polina Sinovets, Julien Théron
Russia’s War on Ukraine
Adérito Vicente
Polina Sinovets
Julien Theron
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