Extended Deterrence a Fools Paradise

by Abdul Basit

Ukraine emerged as a sovereign nation state after the disintegration of former Soviet Union. It was a privilege for the newly born state to have nuclear weapons. In fact the arsenals were stationed there by USSR. The stockpile was third largest house of nukes. During the Utopian period of early 90s, Ukrainian leadership preferred finances and foreign security guarantees over nukes, a fateful decision, which has turned out to be a worst nightmare. The US, Russia and Ukraine penned down a trilateral statement on Jan 14 1994 prompting Ukraine to abandon its nukes in exchange for financial support and security assurances. Later on in December, Ukraine completely relinquished its strategic weapons following security and economic commitments from the international community. Moreover, Ukraine was compensated with the commercial value of highly enriched Uranium. The countries promised to respect the sovereignty and existing borders of the new Republic. Additionally, Russia and the US appeared to agree once again in 2009, affirming their commitments to the Budapest agreement. Russia under Putin was resurging with gradual pace eyeing for an opportunity to become relevant again in the international politics. In fact, he wanted to restore the glory of past, the great USSR. On the contrary US and its European allies were eyeing to further expand their military presence in the Eastern Europe, which was never acceptable for Moscow. Resultantly, after considering a grave threat perception and increasing security dilemma Russia attempted to annex Crimean peninsula in March 2014. Although it was first blow to the Budapest memorandum, but the event created room for the Russia to formally resurge. The main accuse of Russian invasion was the US and its European allies, as fought by “John Merishimer”. He even predicted the contemporary Ukraine war in the aftermath of Crimean annexation. In September 2015 Russia entered in Syria amid security vacuum created by the American evacuation from the country. These events provided a further boost to the resurgence of Moscow and it became more relevant in the discourse of international security. As predicted by John Merishimer in 2015, Russia launched a full-scale war on Ukraine in Feb 2022. The guarantors of security remained unable to protect the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russian invasion clearly threw the Budapest agreement into the dustbin. The event made the memorandum into an assault by the critics of integrated deterrence. The concept got further solidification with the notion that, the nations who sacrifice their nuclear deterrents over the external security promises and finances are actually signing their own death warrants. The world is paying the price of this war, as people around the globe are experiencing the ripple effects. It is pertinent to mention that the Ukrainians are not the only ones to face the wrath of abandoning nukes. Libya under Muammar Gaddafi in 2003 surprisingly announced to relinquish its nuclear program and the chemical weapons amid normalization of ties with the west. Later on, the Arab spring wave ruined the country and its economic fabric after failure to deter the adversary. In theory, the Ukraine experience could incentivize more countries to pursue their own nuclear weapons capabilities. The most definite non nuclear weapon state to join the nuclear club is Islamic Republic of Iran keeping in view its Geo-political standings. Ukraine war may foil the security calculations of Japan and South Korea in a way that, US would restrain to confront an aggression from China and North Korea. Both worry that, China and North Korea would consider to strike the US homeland with nukes and the very threat perception would act as a deterrence. Taiwan owing to its precarious geopolitical scenario may revive its aspirations to acquire strategic weapons. China vows to reunite Taiwan with the mainland either through soft or hard power. Taiwanese equate between Russian invasion of Ukraine and emboldened Chinese threat to occupy non-nuclear Taiwan. Taiwan clandestinely pursued a nuclear weapons capability throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s, but it was caught and forced, largely by the United States, to accept constraints on its nuclear activities that effectively crushed its nuclear aspirations. Like Ukraine, Taiwan faces a mortal threat from a nuclear-armed state and is not the recipient of binding security guarantees from any nuclear power. In the prevailing circumstances, the notion of nuclear proliferation could increase. The failure of the extended deterrence poses a great threat to the non proliferation regime. The attempts to tame Iran and North Korea would surely rest in peace, because until now no nuclear-armed state has ever faced a full-scale invasion by a foreign power, regardless of its own actions. Promises, betrayals and aggression is the prime reason behind the thought among states to rise to the avenues of nuclear deterrence. The world is already at a verge of catastrophes amid bristling of weapons. Nonproliferation itself is a morally worthwhile and even necessary goal. However, the precedents set are not featuring positive vibes. The experience of disarmament and extended deterrence has put forth a heavy cost to the recipients. The only way out in the anarchic world is the self-sufficiency in defending the sovereignty of a state. The efforts to restrain nuclear proliferation get rot and the prediction of John. F Kennedy comes true about the spread of nukes may wind up just being premature, not wrong. That would surely be a very catastrophic and regrettable for the future of international security. The concept of extended deterrence appears to be a mere puff.

Abdul Basit is an Assistant Research Officer at Center For International Strategic Studies, AJK

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Center for International Strategic Studies AJK, King Abdullah Campus Chatter kalas Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir