Security chief explains why Ukraine can’t produce nuclear weapons
Ukraine has almost no chance of producing nuclear weapons on its own, the head of the country’s National Security and Defense Council has acknowledged, while hinting that Kiev may eventually host a Western-made atomic arsenal.
Speaking on national TV on Friday, Aleksey Danilov was asked whether Ukraine could hope to regain its nuclear status, which it lost shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “As for the arsenal that was confiscated from us, let’s be realistic – this is hardly possible at all. And not only because of some political issues, but also because of technological ones,” he said.
The official went on to describe the stockpile of intercontinental ballistic missiles that Ukraine used to host “as a complicated thing,” but noted that there have been cases when non-nuclear powers have been provided with nukes by NATO allies.
“I can’t tell you whether this will work in our case”, Danilov admitted, adding that any efforts by Kiev in this area would face serious hurdles.
Danilov’s comments stand in contrast to those of Aleksey Arestovich, a former adviser to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who suggested in June that Kiev could quickly develop its own atomic arsenal and obtain the necessary fissile material.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine inherited about one third of the country’s nuclear warheads, along with the accompanying infrastructure. In 1994, it voluntarily gave up the weapons in exchange for security guarantees from the US, Britain, and Russia under the Budapest Memorandum. However, in recent years Russian officials have repeatedly said that Western interference in Ukraine’s domestic affairs has undermined that treaty.
In early 2022, shortly before the start of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine, Zelensky signaled that Kiev might try to reclaim its nuclear status, citing the loss of Crimea. The peninsula overwhelmingly voted to join Russia in 2014 after a Western-backed coup in Kiev.
According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukraine was in talks to acquire nuclear weapons before the start of the conflict, while former Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev has said Kiev’s threats to restart its nuclear program were among the main factors that prompted Russia to launch its military operation.