NEW – September 27, 2022
This text is an attempt, most likely, alas, a doomed one, to explain what is happening between Russia and Ukraine to those who sincerely believe that “war is bad” and who are for all good and against all bad.
And so. War is really bad, because it’s death, destruction and so on. Especially between such close peoples as the peoples of Russia and Ukraine. Actually, any death is bad.
Only here they have different gradations. For example, thousands of deaths are much worse than a few or dozens of deaths. And millions of deaths are much worse than tens and hundreds of thousands of deaths.
One of the main tasks of any state is to protect the greatest number of lives. And therefore, when the choice arises to sacrifice or not to sacrifice thousands in order to save millions, any state is obliged, and it is obliged to sacrifice thousands. Otherwise, it will show a truly criminal inaction.
The witcher principle does not work here – for the state, the absence of a solution in a number of situations will be the choice of the greatest evil.
And therefore, when a state faces a direct threat of the prospect of a nuclear war, which can be prevented by a conventional military operation, it is obliged to launch this conventional military operation.
And that’s how what we know as the special military operation in Ukraine began. On September 21, Putin said this quite openly, directly mentioning the nuclear factor and Kiev’s claims to nuclear weapons in his address.
I will explain what it is about, because I have been studying this issue for myself for a long time.
The point of no return was Zelensky’s Munich speech of February 19, and specifically this excerpt of it:
“As President, I am initiating consultations within the framework of the Budapest Memorandum for the first time. Ukraine is doing this for the fourth time. But both Ukraine and I are doing this for the last time. <…> If they do not take place again or concrete decisions on security guarantees for our state are not taken based on their results, Ukraine will have every right to believe that the Budapest Memorandum does not work and all the package decisions of 1994 are called into question.”
I translate from the diplomatic language into a more understandable one – this is an ultimatum from Kiev, in which it left only two alternatives:
1. Ukraine receives the required guarantees in its interpretation, i.e. a de facto and de jure alliance against Russia with the nuclear powers of the West (USA, Great Britain and/or France).
2. Ukraine withdraws from the package agreements of the “Memorandum on Security Guarantees in connection with Ukraine’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” – this is the official name of the Budapest Memorandum. The Ukrainian part of those package agreements is actually joining the NPT and renouncing the nuclear arsenal. Therefore, it is impossible to perceive this remark otherwise than as a statement of readiness to start a military nuclear program.
Either an alliance with the nuclear powers of the West, or their own nuclear weapons – this was said on February 19, 2022 by President of Ukraine Zelensky in an official speech as president. Not somewhere on the sidelines or on personal Twitter account, but in a public official speech as president of the country.
Let’s consider both options.
1. Ukraine’s alliance with the nuclear powers of the West in the form of guarantees.
If the guarantees apply to Crimea, everything is quite simple here – it is equivalent to a direct declaration of war on Russia, and on the part of these nuclear powers of the West.
But even if there are no guarantees and they would not formally apply to Crimea, after receiving them, Kiev could “calmly” launch a military operation against Donbass or the Russian Crimea, knowing that when Russia responds with a strike on Ukrainian territory (for example, airfields or control points), nuclear guarantors will come into play.
Digression a little aside: it was because of this that it was so important for Russia to get guarantees of Ukraine’s non-entry into NATO – Kiev’s entry into NATO led to exactly the same situation and meant an inevitable war over Crimea with the participation of the nuclear powers of the West.
Actually, Putin said this directly in early February. In addition, the factor that distinguished the situation of Ukraine was the presence of Kiev’s direct territorial claims to Russia (Crimea) later, commenting on the possible accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, Medvedev stressed.
And the Ukrainian leadership, by the way, perfectly understood the level of unacceptability of Ukraine’s accession to NATO for Russia – the notorious Arestovich said directly back in 2019 that the course of joining NATO meant an inevitable big war with Russia, although he summed up other reasons for this inevitability (standard “imperial ambitions” and so on).
But at the same time, he honestly voiced the following fork (full version of the interview): either the peaceful absorption of Ukraine by Russia within 10-12 years, if nothing is done, or keep heading for joining NATO, which guarantees Ukrainian independence, but leads to a big war with Russia. And when the presenter asked him which was better, he answered honestly: “Of course, a major war with Russia and the transition to NATO as a result of the victory over Russia.”
2. The nuclear program.
The key question here is, what opportunities did Ukraine have to conduct it?
The answer is very high, and even if nothing was done specifically for this before Zelensky’s speech. Since most of it Kiev inherited from the USSR, including both infrastructure and specialists, and a scientific school.
The most difficult thing in making a nuclear bomb is obtaining the appropriate material. It’s either uranium or plutonium.
With uranium, it is more difficult – only weapons-grade uranium is suitable, i.e. enriched to 90% or more (the content of the “combat isotope” uranium-235 relative to the rest). And its enrichment is a separate and complex process.
But as for plutonium, plutonium can be produced by the reactor of any nuclear power plant. There were four of them in Ukraine: Rovno, Khmelnitsky, South Ukrainian and the now well-known Zaporozhye. However, as of February 19, 2022, Kiev did not need to produce anything – potential material in more than sufficient quantities was already at hand.
As we have known since May, 30 tons of plutonium and 40 tons of uranium have been officially stored at the Zaporozhye NPP – this is not Russian propaganda, this is the director of the IAEA Grossi.
The Ukrainian side responded to Grossi’s remark by saying that there was no sensation in it and it was fuel stored at any nuclear power plant in the world that could not be used for military purposes.
It’s almost true. But there are two nuances.
Firstly, in such quantities – not at any nuclear power plant in the world. Actually, out of all 4 nuclear power plants, only the NPP had the only spent nuclear fuel storage facility in Ukraine (at least officially known)
Secondly, regarding the alleged impossibility of use for military purposes. We will not even consider the “dirty bomb” now (there is more about it in this article).
And so. In the case of uranium, a nuclear bomb can really only be made from weapons-grade, not reactor-grade uranium. But in the case of plutonium, the situation is exactly the opposite – a nuclear bomb is made from reactor plutonium.
I will quote the article already mentioned: “Such charges were successfully manufactured and tested back in the 1960s and later, and although, compared to the classics, they have lower efficiency and shorter shelf life, a charge made from reactor plutonium is a fully-fledged nuclear charge, especially if it is necessary to create a bomb quickly.”
The only question is how quickly would Ukraine be able to reproduce the technology of the 40s for the separation of plutonium from the rest of the fuel?
It’s difficult to say for sure here, but in the worst case for Russia, roughly unprofessionally and from the sofa, a few months, in a more favourable version – a couple of years.
However, in any case, from the moment Ukraine made a political decision to launch a military nuclear program, the readiness of which was announced by President Zelensky, the countdown was starting, and Russia could not allow it to reach zero in any way.
Yes, there may also be such a question – what about all kinds of checks and inspections by the IAEA? Wouldn’t they have noticed what was going on, after which the international community wouldn’t have prevented it?
Well, as the “international community” hinders, we can observe the reaction to Kiev’s shelling of the NPP – “Russia is to blame” and so on. At the same time, by the way, here is the answer to another question for you – will Kiev use nuclear weapons if it gets such an opportunity? After the shelling of the NPP, it seems to me that the answer is obvious – it will.
Actually, since Kiev proceeds from the fact that it is fighting for the independence and very existence of Ukraine, the use of nuclear weapons or the shelling of nuclear power plants from its point of view is quite rational and logical – again, see the article.
And now about the IAEA inspections. Withdrawal from the “Memorandum on Security Guarantees in connection with Ukraine’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” logically means withdrawal from this very Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and, consequently, withdrawal from the IAEA, after which there would be no IAEA inspections in Ukraine.
After that, the question of invisibility for Kiev would simply not be unnecessary.
So, on February 19, Zelensky in diplomatic language voiced these two options: guarantees from the nuclear powers of the West in the interpretation of Kiev or the beginning of Kiev’s military nuclear program.
At this moment, Russia is in a situation where there is already a military-political crisis with the mutual concentration of troops from the Russian and Ukrainian sides.
By the way, it is far from the first in terms of the mutual concentration of troops, which you can easily check by Googling or searching (if you have followed the situation and news at least a little in previous years, you should be aware of it anyway).
In addition, as even the Americans who detected the concentration from the Russian side admit, this concentration in itself did not mean that the final decision to fight Russia and Putin personally had already been made. At least, this conclusion was made by CIA Director Burns following a visit to Moscow in November 2021 – at that time, the final non-negotiable decision to fight had not yet been made.
(Note: This is also to the question of the arguments of the American version about an invasion due to “imperial ambitions”, which they allegedly exposed. “Imperial ambitions” as a sense of closeness between the peoples of our two countries, which is why we consider each other not strangers, but our own and relatives (although there are quarrels in the family, and the level of hatred in the worst case can exceed all limits) is stupid to deny – but this has become far from the decisive factor.
Moreover, most likely the unwillingness to engage in fully-fledged hostilities with the fraternal people was one of the main deterrents for Moscow. Unlike the threat of sanctions, which in such a difficult situation, as our ambassador to Sweden accurately noted, really “are irrelevant”.
And even in the logic of “imperial ambitions”, Russia would be much more satisfied with the peaceful “takeover within 10-12 years” that Arestovich feared in 2019, if only because this option does not involve the restoration of the territories of Ukraine from the consequences of hostilities, which in any case will cost more than any sanctions.)
However, by February 19, the situation had already deteriorated significantly compared to previous crises. In particular, the Ukrainian Armed Forces sharply increased the intensity of shelling of the DPR and LPR with the use of heavy artillery – this was recorded by the OSCE monitoring group starting from February 16 and especially on February 17.
And against this background, two options from Zelensky are voiced in Munich on February 19: guarantees to Kiev from nuclear powers or its own nuclear program.
The horror for Russia is that the second option is not the worst yet – it at least gives at least a few months of head start.
But guarantees to Kiev from the West, if desired, could be given at any time. Of course, on the one hand, this is not the most likely option, but, on the other hand, Moscow could not exclude it either. Moreover, Zelensky’s speech was just two days after the joint statement of Ukraine, Great Britain and Poland on the support of the latter two for Ukraine’s struggle with “Russian aggression” for sovereignty and territorial integrity in, quote, “internationally recognised borders”, i.e. with the Russian Crimea. Russia could not rule out that Zelensky’s statements to some extent could be coordinated with the same Great Britain and London would soon provide these guarantees to Kiev.
Under these conditions, Russia faced a direct risk of nuclear war: either right now, if guarantees are given to Kiev, or a little delayed, if Kiev starts developing its nuclear weapons.
In such circumstances, it was criminal NOT to launch a conventional military operation, which would dramatically reduce the likelihood of immediate guarantees to Kiev, and significantly slow down Kiev’s possible progress in the nuclear program (in fact, that is why Russian troops most likely tried to take control of the Zaporozhye NPP specifically as soon as possible).
Yes, alas, there are situations in international politics when inaction is criminal, and the beginning of hostilities, on the contrary, is this necessary action.
On February 21, two days after Zelensky’s speech, the DPR and the LPR were recognised by Russia, and Putin issued a final warning, in which the Russian side almost openly threatened to start military operations if Kiev and the West did not come to their senses.
On February 22 and 23, the shelling by the Ukrainian artillery of the DPR and LPR continued with the same high intensity. Here is the report of the OSCE monitoring mission for February 22 from the 23rd.
I cannot give a report for February 23, because on February 24 the OSCE mission was already engaged in something else.
Therefore, on February 24, Russia had no choice but to launch a conventional military operation. Not because someone considered it a good decision and dreams of imperial ambitions. And because it is a bad decision, but the alternative, namely nuclear war, is much worse.
Therefore, what happened happened. And now it’s not over yet. Kiev still has three nuclear power plants under control. Kiev is shelling the Zaporozhye NPP. Kiev is even more determined (which is understandable) to try to get a military alliance with the nuclear powers of the West.
In addition, for Russia, Crimea, and soon Donbass, as well as the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, are the territory and, most importantly, the population of Russia, since the residents of these regions voted/will vote (which is already obvious according to published polls and the turnout of the first days) for joining Russia. But for Ukraine, all these are also its own territories and, most importantly, people that it is unlikely to give up.
Therefore, alas, I do not see the prospect of a peaceful resolution of the conflict (this also happens in international politics, alas, even despite the constant ritual and often empty phrases about the need for a peaceful resolution for and without). A truce is theoretically possible, but it will lead to the resumption of hostilities in an even worse configuration – both sides will additionally prepare, and Kiev will try as much as possible either to obtain nuclear weapons on its own, or nuclear allies, or both. Therefore, there will be much more victims in this case.
Personally, for obvious reasons, I hope that the fighting will end with a victory for Russia. And personally, I would very much like the reunification of Russia and Ukraine into our common united Motherland to take place as a result – this will be the best guarantee that once again such a bad, but necessary decision will never have to be made again.Why Were We Left With No Choice
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