All wars have unexpected consequences. One potential impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine is the distinct possibility that more states will be interested in developing or deploying nuclear weapons. Under the protocols of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty were guaranteed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia. Russia has now violated this agreement twice: first in its 2014 annexation of Crimea and subsequent invasion of the Donbas and again, in its 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
It’s easy to see how states could look at Ukraine’s experience and determine that even a small nuclear deterrent is necessary in an era of renewed great power competition and simmering regional conflicts. Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya were deposed by force, yet North Korea’s small but growing nuclear arsenal increases the costs and risks of launching a military intervention to depose the Kim dynasty. Iran’s overall policies and nuclear weapons ambitions reflect its desire to dominate the greater Middle East, but the Iranian leadership may likewise view a nuclear arsenal as an insurance policy against military intervention, either to overthrow the ruling elites or in response to Iran-sponsored terrorism.
The above excerpt was originally published in The National Interest.
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