Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

How invasion of Ukraine could transform nuclear landscape of Asia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level : Paper 2- Russia-Ukraine war

Context

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear sabre-rattling in Ukraine, has triggered a far more consequential debate on the importance of atomic weapons in deterring Chinese expansionism.

Background

  • Ukraine agreed in 1994 to give up the nuclear weapons that it inherited from the Soviet Union in return for guarantees on Kyiv’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • Clearly, those legal guarantees were no substitute for nuclear weapons.

Changing stand on nuclear weapons

  • Debate in Japan: In an important statement last week, the former prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, called for a national debate on hosting American nuclear weapons on Japanese soil.
  • One element of the debate is the fact that nuclear weapons remain the greatest deterrent, especially against a vastly superior adversary.
  • Korea strengthening nuclear deterrence: In South Korea, which is electing its president this week, front-runner Yoon Suk-yeol has talked of strengthening Seoul’s nuclear deterrence against both Pyongyang and Beijing.
  • Taiwan and Australia developing nuclear submarine: Taiwan, is reportedly developing a nuclear-powered submarine that could offer some deterrence against a Chinese invading force.
  • Australia, which is working with the UK and the US to build nuclear-powered submarines, is accelerating the project after the Ukraine invasion.

Threat of escalation to nuclear war

  • The threat of escalation to the nuclear level was very much in the mind of NATO’s military planners when the alliance refused to be drawn into a firefight with Russia in Ukraine.
  • Moscow is also conscious of the fact that there are two nuclear weapon powers in Europe — Britain and France.
  • Nuclear sharing arrangement: Russia is also aware of the “nuclear sharing” arrangements between the US and some European allies — Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.
  • Under this framework, European allies host US nuclear weapons on their soil and authorise their armed forces to deliver American nuclear weapons on Russia.
  • Nuclear sharing also involves continuous consultations on nuclear doctrine and the planning of nuclear operations.
  • The US and its allies are also pursuing a “hybrid war” that boosts Ukrainian resistance against Russian armed forces and raises military, economic, and political costs of Moscow’s aggression.

Threat of China invading Taiwan

  • Taiwan is far more important for Asian (and global) security than Ukraine is for Europe.
  • Taiwan sits at the heart of the Western Pacific and straddles the sea line of communication in the world’s most dynamic economic arena.
  • It is the main source of silicon chips for the world.
  • When China conquers Taiwan it will dramatically transform the geopolitics of Asia.
  • As Putin becomes more dependent on China, Russia is bound to back Xi Jinping’s ambitions in Asia.
  • This is the context in which China’s eastern neighbours are taking a fresh look at the nuclear option.
  • Nuclear sharing arrangement: On the nuclear front, the debate in Japan and South Korea is about potential nuclear sharing arrangements with the US.
  • In Taiwan and Australia, the emphasis is on developing nuclear-powered submarines.
  • Deployment of strategic weapons: The US too is debating the deployment of new strategic weapon systems in Asia that might encourage China to pause before trying to emulate Russia’s Ukraine adventure.

Consider the question ” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is going to transform the nuclear landscape of Asia. Comment.”

Conclusion

One way or another, Russia’s war in Ukraine is bound to transform the Asian nuclear landscape.

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