The developing events in Russia have not yet featured explicit nuclear threats of any kind. We must hope that no such threats materialise. Yet it would be wrong to completely ignore the implicit nuclear risks embedded in what is happening.
Russia spends the third largest amount on nuclear weapons of any of the nuclear-armed states ($9.6 billion in 2022) and retains the largest declared stockpile of nuclear warheads (close to 6,000) of any such state. Russia’s ‘nuclear doctrine’ is clear that nuclear weapons may be used if there is a threat to the integrity of the state.
Like many other nations Russia has a large number of nuclear power plants: each of these is a potential nuclear disaster in the ‘best of times’ and even more so in conflict situations. Such potential risks are illustrated by ongoing concern over the status of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, which is currently occupied by Russian forces.
There are no ‘right hands’ for nuclear weapons and nuclear technology. Events such as those in Russia demonstrate the stark risks and illustrate one of the reasons why the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons and an end to nuclear power.
What goes for Russia also goes for the rest of the world. For too long, actual nuclear blackmail and the prospect of such blackmail has distorted political relations within and between states. The prospect of nuclear escalation and the threat of nuclear use must end.
Whatever else transpires, CND calls on all sides to keep nuclear threats and nuclear blackmail off the table.