What Happened to the Soviet Superpower's Nuclear Arsenal?
Clues For The Nuclear Security Summit
by Graham Allison
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Excerpt from the Introduction:
"...Twenty years ago Russia and fourteen other newly-independent states emerged from the ruins of the Soviet empire, many as nations for the first time in history. As is typical in the aftermath of the collapse of an empire, this was followed by a period of chaos, confusion, and corruption. As the saying went at the time, “everything is for sale.” At that same moment, as the Soviet state imploded, 35,000 nuclear weapons remained at thousands of sites across a vast Eurasian landmass that stretched across eleven time zones.
Today, fourteen of the fifteen successor states to the Soviet Union are nuclear weapons-free. When the U.S.S.R. disappeared, 3,200 strategic nuclear warheads remained in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, most of them atop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that stood on alert, ready to be fired at targets in the U.S. Today, every one of the nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus has been deactivated and returned to Russia, where they were dismantled and the nuclear material in the warheads blended down to produce fuel for civilian reactors.
Strategic nuclear weapons are nuclear warheads aimed at an adversary’s nuclear weapons, cities and military infrastructure. Typically, they are large in yield and heavy. Of greater interest to terrorists, however, were the former U.S.S.R’s 22,000 tactical nuclear weapons with smaller yields and shorter ranges. These were designed primarily for battlefield use, with some small enough to fit into a duffel bag. Today, all of these have also been returned to Russia, leaving zero nuclear weapons in any other state of the former Soviet Union.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel observed about the rush of events in the 1990s: “things have changed so fast we have not yet taken time to be astonished.” Perhaps the most astonishing fact about the past twenty years is something that did not happen."