The Security Index Occasional Paper Series came out with the new report "Russian nuclear succession: 30 years later"


MOSCOW. JUNE 10, 2022. PIR PRESS. The Security Index Occasional Paper Series came out with the new report "Russian nuclear succession: 30 years later".

The period from December 1991 to July 1992, from the point of view of registration of the succession of nuclear weapons located on the territory of the USSR at the time of its collapse, was transitional. On July 6, 1992, nine CIS States – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine – confirmed that they supported Russia's participation in the NPT as a nuclear-weapon state (NWS) and declared that they were ready to join the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS). Thus, by this point the issue was legally closed. The issue of succession has been resolved, and the Russian Federation has become the rightful successor of the USSR in terms of possession of nuclear weapons. It was during these six months, or a little more, that the nuclear succession of the Russian Federation took shape, both legally and practically. This process was fraught with a number of difficulties, since the Soviet nuclear arsenal was distributed to almost all the now former Soviet republics, some of which saw this as an opportunity to significantly raise their status in the world community. This research paper contains the results of the PIR Center seminar "30 years of Russian nuclear succession", which brought together leading researchers and practitioners.

Key findings:

  • The collapse of the USSR was a unique event in the history of nuclear nonproliferation. The nuclear succession of the Russian Federation was not the only possible and uncontested outcome.

  • Western countries were really interested in maintaining unified control over Soviet nuclear weapons, fearing its "spread" to other countries.

  • The decisions taken in 1991 in Alma-Ata were enough to solve the situation with tactical nuclear weapons. The situation with strategic weapons was finally settled only in Lisbon in 1994.

  • The possible emergence of new NWS was incompatible with the NPT, which provided for the existence of only five such States. In principle, the NPT has played a major role in establishing the framework of the succession process.

  • During the partition of the USSR's nuclear arsenal, the political elites of the former Soviet republics emphasized their right to the Soviet legacy. In addition, they sought to ensure equality with Russia in the framework of the discussion of the conditions for joining the START I.

  • The choice of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine in favor of nuclear-free was made largely under the influence of external factors. The internal dynamics determined only the specifics of the disarmament process in specific countries, but could hardly call it into question.

Read the report (in Russian)