The Demise of the USSR and the Nuclear Aftermath in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine

October 17, 2022
William C. Potter reviews a Journal of Cold War Studies article by Mariana Budjeryn.

Mariana Budjeryn, “Non-Proliferation and State Succession: The Demise of the USSR and the Nuclear Aftermath in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.”
Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 24, No. 2, Spring 2022: 46-94.

Editor: Diane Labrosse | Commissioning Editor: Thomas Maddux | Production Editor: Christopher Ball
Review by William C. Potter, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

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The timing could not be more fortuitous for the publication of Mariana Budjeryn’s important article on the decisions by Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine to relinquish the nuclear weapons they inherited when the Soviet Union collapsed. Although these nuclear renunciation decisions took place approximately three decades ago, the factors responsible for them remain very relevant today.

A fundamental premise of Budjeryn’s article—and one that extends well beyond the three cases she examines—is that nuclear decisions are multicausal and are influenced by a variety of domestic and external factors. The more important drivers and inhibitors in her lucid, comparative analysis include: historical experiences, leadership beliefs, domestic economic, political, and security considerations, the behavior of other powerful states, and international normative structures associated with the 1970 Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). This method of focused comparative analysis, which is informed by the author’s familiarity with essential primary sources and relevant prior scholarship, enhances the value of her findings and their contribution to the larger body of research on nuclear nonproliferation decision making.

Budjeryn is especially effective in mining non-English language archival and memoir literature of relevant post-Soviet policy makers, including, among others, former Belarusian President Stanislav Shushkevich, former Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev, and key Ukrainian politicians such as Yuri Kostenko, Volodymydr Tolubko, and Leonid Kravchuk. She also has made good use of personal interviews with some of these figures and others.


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