In July, the Kiev-based regime deployed OTR-21 Tochka ballistic missiles also known as SS-21 “Scarabs,” against the people of eastern Ukraine. The missiles measure 6.4 meters in length and carry warheads of up to 454 kg, making them without a doubt a weapon of mass destruction (WMD). Despite Kiev utilizing weapons like the SS-21, there was little outcry in the United States or across Europe. The deafening silence over the use of such weapons in Ukraine stands in stark contrast to wild hysteria exhibited just in 2011 when the Libyan government allegedly deployed Scud missiles against NATO-backed militants fighting Tripoli, Sirte, and the desert city of Bani Walid.
Ukraine’s Nuclear Legacy
As a former Soviet state, Ukraine possesses a large variety of advanced weaponry and industrial capacity, aspects of a developed nation now in the hands of a state descending into third world-like chaos. Among Ukraine’s industrial and technological inheritance is nuclear power. In total Ukraine possesses 15 nuclear reactors including the largest facility in Europe, the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. It also, until 1994, possessed nuclear weapons. Having been nuclear weapons-free since 1994, the new regime in Kiev has expressed interest in once again obtaining such weaponry for the purpose of “defending itself” from “Russian aggression.”
But absent of nuclear weapons, the possibility of Kiev committing to a course of action that threatens both Ukraine itself, as well as other nations across the region with nuclear catastrophe should weigh on the minds of all policymakers and analysts. Already, the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant served host to clashes between Kiev-backed Neo-Nazi militants from Right Sector and local police.
Ultimately, Right Sector would fail to capture the nuclear power plant, but similar incidents have lurked behind the more sensational headlines, including most recently, concerns regarding the safety of Zaporizhia once again. Greenpeace nuclear expert Tobias Munchmeyer said the reactors’ safe operation was dependent on both Russian expertise and spare parts. He also stated that the reactors were unprotected from the sort of heavy weapons being used by Kiev. Intensified fighting in the neighboring Donetsk region could ultimately spill over and either threaten the facility’s security directly, or indirectly if Russian technical assistance is cut off.
Ukraine’s more infamous nuclear power facility, Chernobyl, just north of Kiev, is a lasting reminder to both Ukrainians and the world of the price one pays for laxity, incompetence, or just plain bad luck. The destroyed reactor at Chernobyl still persists as a danger almost 3 decades after the disaster first unfolded. With the current regime in Kiev unable to meet even the most basic needs of the Ukrainian people and with fighting ongoing in its two eastern most provinces, the question over whether Kiev should be entrusted with the oversight of persisting disasters like that in Chernobyl, or the safe operation of functioning nuclear power facilities like that in Zaporizhia, looms in the background but could quickly end up as tragic headlines.
Kiev has also been accused of using chemical weapons. Most notably, Russia has accused Kiev of using phosphorous fire bombs and chlorine gas during military operations in southeastern Ukraine. While politicians and various supporting organizations in the United States and Europe regularly call for investigations into even the most trivial and unsubstantiated accusations of human rights abuses and violations of chemical and biological weapon treaties, Russia’s accusations fell on deaf ears.The predictable, hypocritical silence from the US and Europe will only embolden Kiev, if indeed it has been using chemical weapons, and if it plans on deploying even more destructive means against its own people in eastern Ukraine. Just as it has demonstrated with the use of SS-21 ballistic missiles against targets in populated areas, whatever Kiev has at its disposal will eventually be deployed as its military campaign continues to unravel and deeper desperation sets in.
It has been speculated that threats to Ukraine’s nuclear power facilities could be used as a pretext for NATO troops to enter and secure territory within Ukraine. Such a move could then allow NATO to incrementally expand its presence in Ukraine. However, as noted, Ukraine’s nuclear power facilities require Russian expertise, and should any team be deployed to secure and oversee the safe operation of Ukrainian nuclear power facilities, it should be Russian teams.
Similarly, the use of chemical or biological weapons by Kiev, could easily be manipulated by American and European media outlets to implicate rebels fighting in the east. By doing so, NATO could justify taking a harder, more unified line against both the rebels and Russia who it accuses of backing the rebels and more recently, of directly fighting “alongside” them.
As seen in other conflicts, from Iraq to Syria and even attempts to start new conflicts with nations like Iran, the terms “nuclear, biological, and chemical” possess powerful propagandizing effects. Swaying the public with threats of catastrophic suffering at the hands of the deadliest weapons conceived by humanity has been a favorite tool of American and European policymakers for over a decade. Ultimately, however, the US and Europe via NATO direct and assist Kiev, and have a larger say over how Ukraine’s heavier weapons and advanced nuclear industrial infrastructure is managed. While NATO may attempt to step in as mediators or as a stabilizing force among potential or unfolding nuclear catastrophe, or amid the use of WMD’s, it will have been NATO itself that set the stage for such a catastrophe in the first place.