LF   RFE/RL   07-Apr-1998   US-Russia-Iran-Ukraine
The moral and political meaning of nuclear weapons is that states which renounce their use are acquiescing to the status of vassal states.  All those states which feel satisfied with possessing conventional weapons alone are fated to become vassal states.
We may recall that the US and Israel applied strong pressure on Ukraine to stop it from supplying an electricity-generating turbine to Russia which Russia intended to install in nuclear facilities that it was building in Iran.  Ukraine buckled under this pressure and reneged on its contract.  A number of negative consequences followed:  More Ukrainian scientists and engineers were deprived of useful employment, and thus became more likely to emigrate to Israel or to the US.  Ukraine's nuclear industry suffered a setback.  Ukraine's balance of payments was pushed farther into the red.  Ukraine's dependency on US handouts increased.  Ukraine's relations with Iran a potential ally capable of supplying Ukraine with badly-needed energy were damaged, Iran declaring Ukraine "an unreliable partner that has been unable to withstand U.S. pressure" (David R. Marples, Ukrainian Weekly, 29 March 1998, p. 2).  Marples describes Ukraine's decision as a "humiliating retreat," and possibly it is seen as such by others.  With each new instance of submission to American-Israeli bullying, and the reduction of national power that results, Ukraine finds itself in an ever-weaker position to resist fresh bullying.

Of course, the electricity-generating turbine will be supplied to Iran's nuclear plant, but not by Ukraine.  We wait to hear from the press who that supplier will be.  We wait to hear whether that supplier will be subjected to the same pressure by the US and Israel to renege on his contract, and whether that supplier will buckle under the pressure the way Ukraine did.

Now we see in the RFE/RL article below that Russia is moving forward in helping Iran build nuclear facilities.  As Iran is signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and as it allows international inspection of its developing nuclear facilities, Russia is in a strong position to argue that its contribution is blameless, something apparently which the Ukrainian leadership did not think to argue in defense of its contribution of one electricity-generating turbine.  Might as well look at the bright side though less work for Ukraine might mean more work for Russia.  Perhaps some of Ukraine's unemployed scientists and engineers will have added to their options of emigrating to the US or Israel, the new option of emigrating to Russia where they will be able to continue doing the work that the US and Israel have forbidden within Ukraine.  In fact, we might be able to pinpoint the exact location to which Ukraine's scientists and engineers will head: David R. Marples writes in the Ukrainian Weekly (29 March 1998) that "Russia has ... announced that its specialized factory in St. Petersburg can take over the job of constructing turbines for Bushehr [the Iranian nuclear facility]."  The effect of US-Israeli intervention, then, will be not to keep Iran from acquiring the electricity-generating turbines that it needs, but only to shift the business from Ukraine to Russia.

If this outcome was not anticipated by the US, then we may say that the US is bad at anticipating outcomes, and so Ukraine should accept its future advice only after its own independent evaluation of what these outcomes might be.  If, on the other hand, the US did anticipate the outcome that Ukraine would simply lose business to Russia, then we may say that the US was acting to further undermine Ukraine while strengthening Russia.  Take your pick either the US is incompetent, or malevolent toward Ukraine.

The biggest mistake that Ukraine made upon acquiring independence was to give away its nuclear weapons.  The second biggest was to entrust its safety and guidance to the United States.  Perhaps Ukraine's fate is to repeat a blunder that proved nearly fatal the first time it was made the mistake of not standing alone, but rather looking for a bigger brother under whose wing to shelter.  One can make such a mistake once and still survive but twice?

Does Ukraine get anything in return for reneging on its contract with Russia, and indirectly to Iran?  Yes, but what it gets is vague, and does not put bread on the table the way a contract does, and can be withdrawn at the whim of the US.  Ukraine gets from the US "a 30-year agreement on nuclear cooperation, via which U.S. companies will assist the completion of the new reactors at the Rivne and Khmelnytskyi nuclear plants.  The U.S. evidently has also offered Ukraine access to its satellite technology" (Marples, Ukrainian Weekly, 29 March 1998).  However, the agreement on nuclear cooperation appears to be an agreement on the part of Ukraine to buy from US companies.  In other words, when Ukraine threatens to become a seller on the international nuclear market, the US government steps in and transforms Ukraine into a buyer.  And "access to its satellite technology" what does that mean?  How much of US satellite technology will Ukraine have access to?  For how long?  How much will this access increase Ukraine's international sales, and how soon?  With hundreds of thousands of Ukraine's best scientists and engineers having been stolen by the West, will there be enough left within Ukraine to capitalize on any technology that might be shared?  Will the benefits to Ukraine compensate Ukraine for the loss of the $45 million that the sale of its turbine would have brought, and the loss of the other $45 million that the probable sale of a second turbine would have brought, and the loss of subcontracts that Russia had promised in connection with the same project, and the loss of tens or hundreds of millions more that future sales of similar products to other countries would have brought?  While it is true that Ukraine has much to be wary of from the direction of Russia, in this one affair of the Iranian-desired turbines, Russia was acting to strengthen Ukraine, and the American-Israeli coalition was acting to weaken it.

I do not forget the other thing that Ukraine gets in compensation for reneging on its contract the release of the second half of a foreign aid package worth $225 million.  From a position of being empowered to earn foreign capital by useful production, Ukraine allows itself to be led trustingly down the road to becoming a welfare case.  From the point of view of the gangsters who currently run Ukraine, this may be the chief benefit of their reneging on the turbine contract that the foreign aid funds that are released are more immediately stealable than is income generated by foreign sales.  Switzerland too will welcome Ukraine's decision more millions from Ukrainian parliamentarians will be added to the billions already stashed in Swiss banks by the world's corrupt politicians, dictators, pimps, and drug lords.  And let us not forget that $45 million paid for a turbine really is $45 million that comes in to Ukraine.  But the $225 million in foreign aid who knows what proportion of it is loans, what proportion will really be spent in the West, what proportion is targeted toward helping Ukrainian scientists and engineers emigrate from Ukraine, what proportion will be stolen, what proportion will go toward supporting useless projects?

Why does the United States treat Ukraine with such contempt and Russia with such deference?  One reason might be that Russia has nuclear missiles which are aimed at American cities (at least can be so aimed following two seconds of re-programming).  Russia has to be given serious help to modernize and to acquire wealth, because a nuclear power that is backward and poor is unstable and dangerous.  And as Ukraine has given its nuclear weapons away, the world sees no comparable urgency to modernize it and to bring it affluence.  By giving away its nuclear weapons, Ukraine has earned for itself the contempt that the strong feel toward the weak, the contempt that nuclear haves like the US and Israel feel toward the nuclear have-nots like Ukraine, and that the wise feel toward the foolish.

Below I quote the words of Munya Mardoch, director of the Israeli Institute for Development of Weaponry (RAFAEL), originally quoted by journalist Aluf Ben in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz 11 Feb 94, and which I found in Israel Shahak's book Open Secrets: Israeli Foreign and Nuclear Policies, Pluto Press, London and Chicago, 1997, p. 153:

The moral and political meaning of nuclear weapons is that states which renounce their use are acquiescing to the status of vassal states.  All those states which feel satisfied with possessing conventional weapons alone are fated to become vassal states.

I can imagine the laughter of incredulity and derision at least within Munya Mardoch circles, but also perhaps throughout Israel, and perhaps even throughout the world at the sight of Ukraine transforming itself from the world's third-largest nuclear power to a vassal state.  That Ukraine was doing so primarily to qualify for US foreign aid must have seemed particularly comical to the Israelis who could not have helped noticing that they themselves were simultaneously a nuclear power and the recipients of the largest slice of US foreign aid.

Israel takes the largest slice of US foreign aid, we are told, Egypt takes two-thirds of what Israel gets, by treaty, and Ukraine ranks third.  What's to complain about third is pretty good.  Well, that's the impression we are invited to walk away with, anyway.  However, when Stefan Lemieszewski looked more closely at the figures, he concluded that whereas Ukraine is promised $4.30 per capita for the current year, Israel has been getting far in excess of $304.80 per capita per year over an interval of the last 48 years:


I say "far in excess" because Stefan's calculation extrapolates the current Israeli population of 5.8 million backward over the entire 48-year interval, whereas in reality the average population has been far lower over that interval.  Had Ukrainian leaders been less eager to ingratiate themselves with the US and Israel, and more eager to examine the numbers, they might have concluded that there was a positive correlation between the possession of nuclear weapons and the receipt of US foreign aid.

One final thought.  In computing the amount that Ukraine receives from the United States in foreign aid, will Ukraine's losses resulting from reneging on its turbine deal be subtracted?  Will two turbines at $45 million each, plus the value of related contracts, plus future sales be subtracted from, say, the $225 million that is supposedly about to be released to Ukraine?  My expectation is that no such subtraction will be made.  I expect that everyone will continue to talk about Ukraine being about to receive $225 million in foreign aid without taking into account what losses Ukraine was forced to suffer in order to qualify for that aid.  In the end, if the proportion of the $225 million aid package that truly benefits Ukraine were computed, and the total loss to Ukraine of reneging on the turbine contract were computed as well, it is possible that the losses would exceed the gains, and perhaps even by a large margin.

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 67 Part I, 7 April 1998

External link to RFE/RL

RUSSIA MAY BUILD RESEARCH NUCLEAR REACTOR IN IRAN.  Yevgenii Adamov, who replaced Viktor Mikhailov as Russian atomic energy minister in March, told journalists on 6 April that Moscow wants to sign a new contract with Iran on constructing a nuclear reactor for research purposes, Interfax reported.  The reactor would use uranium with enrichment of 20 percent or less in compliance with International Atomic Energy Agency requirements.  Adamov said he will try to persuade the Russian leadership to endorse the project, which was first discussed in 1996, rather than "wait for the Americans to come ... and build a reactor."  He added that his ministry "does nothing without a political decision."  LF

Copyright (c) 1998. RFE/RL, Inc.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
1201 Connecticut Avenue
N.W. Washington DC 20036