In the eighth brief of our “Russia’s War in Ukraine” series, Hudson Institute’s Richard Weitz examines issues related to weapons of mass destruction.
Throughout the war, Russia has regularly threatened to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine and against Western states. Analysts are divided on the credibility of these threats and on the risk that the war in Ukraine may escalate to the nuclear level, but Russia’s careless rhetoric is at least likely to set back prospects for nuclear arms control and increase the incentives for nuclear proliferation.
While the nuclear taboo has remained unbroken, Russia’s use of hypersonic missiles and its readiness to disrupt civil nuclear operations may have created precedents with huge future consequences. Although Russia’s hypersonic missile attacks—a world first—have not been game-changing, they have sent important signals and, no doubt, advanced Russia’s quest to operationalise these weapons. Of more immediate concern have been Russia’s readiness to ignore basic safety protocols at Chornobyl and its recklessness in conducting offensive military operations near the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant. Meanwhile, its disinformation about Ukraine’s chemical and biological capacity has raised the spectre of the use of chemical or biological agents in a war in Europe.
Weitz concludes that the non-use of weapons of mass destruction in the Ukraine War has contributed to emboldening Western states in their supply of advanced weapon systems to Ukraine.
Download and read:
- Brief No.8. WMD Issues (PDF)
- Brief No.7. When Russia Went to War (PDF)
- Brief No.6. The War at Sea (PDF)
- Brief No.5. The Early Air War (PDF)
- Brief No.4. Large-Scale War and NATO (PDF)
- Brief No.3. Russian Military Logistics (PDF)
- Brief No.2. The War in Cyberspace (PDF)
- Brief No.1. The Kremlin’s Aims and Assumptions (PDF)