Russia’s nuclear blackmail must be met with denial (Geoeconomic Briefing)

Among a broad range of impacts on the international order, one of the most concerning issues from the Russia-Ukraine war would be the risk of Russia using nuclear weapons. The current situation in which Russia, a nuclear power, is openly threatening to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine, a nonnuclear power, has a serious impact on the global nuclear nonproliferation regime. Until now, the five major nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China — have made unilateral declarations on negative security assurances by which they will not use nuclear weapons against any nonnuclear state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), with a caveat: to reserve the right to use nuclear weapons if attacked by a nonnuclear state allied or associated with a nuclear-weapon state (except in the case of China which has not mentioned this caveat). These declarations, although not legally binding, function as commitments to mitigate the inequality inherent in the NPT, which solidifies the status of nuclear and nonnuclear states. Russia’s nuclear threat against Ukraine has grave significance in undermining the reliability of the self-restraint that has underpinned the NPT regime. This article focuses on the danger of a nuclear state using nuclear weapons against a nonnuclear state, an issue that has not sufficiently been discussed in existing nuclear deterrence literature. Looking into this issue will offer a particularly crucial perspective in thinking about Japan’s national security as a nonnuclear state.

International House of Japan

Asia Pacific Initiative