Security assurances: Current challenges and implications for the future

By Iryna Maksymenko

Security guarantees by nuclear-weapon states (NWS) are a tool used by non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) to control nuclear proliferation. NNWS require security guarantees in cases where they have strong concerns about threats to national security from other states, mainly NWS. Ukraine is one such example. The Budapest Memorandum, which was signed in exchange for the denuclearization of Ukraine, provided positive and negative guarantees on Ukraine’s security. However, it failed to prevent Russia from exerting political and economic pressure, drawing ‘red lines’ and making unilateral changes to its land and sea borders with Ukraine. Following the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Russia’s aggressive policy towards Ukraine was compounded by a large-scale military invasion in February 2022 and threats of the use of nuclear weapons. Experts and politicians are discussing the long-term consequences of President of Russia Vladimir Putin’s threat of use of nuclear weapons in the modern world, which include an enhanced raison d’être for North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear options as well as reducing the incentives for nuclear disarmament. In a broader sense, further disarmament and non-proliferation efforts will require alternative approaches, as well as increased credibility of the major powers’ security assurances.

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