Cover: Ukraine’s Nuclear Disarmament: A History, from Harvard University PressCover: Ukraine’s Nuclear Disarmament in HARDCOVER

Ukraine’s Nuclear Disarmament

A History

Yuri Kostenko

Edited and translated by Svitlana Krasynska

Translated by Lidia Wolanskyj

Olena Jennings

Introduction by Paul D’Anieri

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Product Details


$96.00 • £76.95 • €86.50

ISBN 9780674249301

Publication Date: 01/05/2021


350 pages

7-1/4 x 10 inches

54 color photos, 89 photos

Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute > Harvard Series in Ukrainian Studies


Yuri Kostenko has written a superb book explaining why Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in the mid-1990s, leaving itself without a deterrent against Russia. He shows in fascinating detail that pressure from Moscow and Washington left Ukraine with little choice but to surrender its nuclear arsenal. Kostenko directly ties that fateful decision to the war that broke out between Russia and Ukraine in 2014, in which Ukraine was largely defenseless and the United States, which had promised to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty, sat on the sidelines. The implicit message of Ukraine’s Nuclear Disarmament is clear: there is no substitute for a nuclear deterrent when you live in a dangerous neighborhood.—John J. Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago, and author of Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities

Yuri Kostenko’s rich, cogent, and well-sourced insider account of Ukraine giving up the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal in the 1990s shows how power asymmetries and state-building affect international political outcomes in nontrivial and counterintuitive ways—with the security dilemma engendering hasty unilateral disarmament; costly commitments demanded from weaker rather than stronger states; and democratic peace falling short of its promises even with the endorsement of the world’s most powerful democracies. A must-read for students of international politics, the book explains how authoritarian adversaries can leverage America’s security concerns of the day to subvert fledgling democracies and why support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and integration with the West is in America’s vital long-term national interest.—Mikhail Alexseev, Professor in the Department of Political Science, San Diego State University, and author of Without Warning: Threat Assessment, Intelligence, and Global Struggle

Ukraine’s Nuclear Disarmament is the definitive account of the fateful decision to unilaterally dismantle the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal. Yuri Kostenko was the consummate insider, with privileged access to the actors and arguments that led to a decision whose legacy continues to haunt Ukraine’s future. Not only does he produce a wealth of new material, some previously classified; he disposes of the myth that the opponents of this decision wished to maintain Ukraine’s nuclear status. Until now, the straw man of ‘nuclear-armed Ukraine’ has impeded critical thought about whether more could have been done to ensure ‘effective disarmament.’ Kostenko’s detailed and engrossing account will enlighten and disquiet in equal measure.—James Sherr, Senior Fellow, Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the International Centre for Defence and Security, and Associate Fellow, Chatham House Russia and Eurasia Programme

Even readers who believe that Ukraine never had a realistic chance—technically or politically—of emerging as a full-fledged nuclear weapons state in the 1990s will find Yuri Kostenko’s book extremely illuminating. Having served as Ukraine’s minister of environmental protection and a member of the Ukrainian parliament during the protracted debates on the nuclear issue, Kostenko provides a richly detailed insider’s account that underscores the importance of political divisions within Ukraine in shaping the outcome. These divisions, he contends, gave greater leverage to external actors and prevented Ukraine from pursuing the kind of deal he favored: a deal that would have given Ukraine more robust security guarantees and greater financial compensation in exchange for relinquishing all the nuclear missiles left on its territory after the demise of the Soviet Union.—Mark Kramer, Director of Cold War Studies, Harvard University

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