Ukraine Completes Final Transfer of Nuclear Warheads to Russia

By Cerniello, Craig | Arms Control Today, May/June 1996 | Go to article overview

Ukraine Completes Final Transfer of Nuclear Warheads to Russia


Cerniello, Craig, Arms Control Today


UKRAINIAN President Leonid Kuchma announced June 1 that Ukraine had transferred the last of the former Soviet strategic nuclear warheads on its territory to Russia, thereby making it the second non-Russian republic of the former Soviet Union to become completely nuclear-free. With Kuchma's announcement, Ukraine has fulfilled most of its disarmament obligations, although it is still destroying the remaining strategic nuclear delivery systems on its territory as required under START I.

In April 1995, Kazakhstan transferred to Russia the last of the former Soviet strategic warheads left on its territory after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Belarus, the only other non-Russian republic where Soviet strategic nuclear weapons were based, is scheduled to transfer the final 18 strategic warheads remaining on its territory (deployed on SS-25 ICBMs) to Russia by the end of 1996. Thus, by the end of the year, Russia should be the only former Soviet republic with nuclear weapons on its territory.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine inherited roughly 1,900 strategic warheads and 2,500 tactical warheads-the equivalent of the world's third largest nuclear arsenal-although Kiev never had operational control over the weapons. Ukraine completed the transfer of the tactical warheads to Russia in 1992 pursuant to commitments Kiev made in December 1991 under the so-called AlmaAta agreement, which called for Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan to transfer all tactical nuclear weapons on their territories to Russia by July 1, 1992.

In mid-May of this year, Russia agreed to provide Ukraine with $450 million in compensation for the tactical warheads. This is the first compensation Kiev has received for those weapons. The money will be applied toward Ukraine's debt obligations for past Russian oil and natural gas deliveries.

In January 1994, the United States, Russia and Ukraine signed the so-called "trilateral statement" under which Kiev agreed to transfer all former Soviet strategic nuclear warheads to Moscow for dismantlement (see ACT, January/February 1994).

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Ukraine Completes Final Transfer of Nuclear Warheads to Russia
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