After the Russian attack on Ukraine, fears of a nuclear conflict are growing. But especially in times of crisis, we should not give up hope for a world without nuclear weapons. Kazakhstan, with its initiatives, is at least a role model in this regard.

Russia’s attack on Ukraine shook the entire global security architecture. In addition to the terrible loss of human life and the immense destruction, a threatening backdrop smolders in Russia that is worrying and fueling fears for many: the threat of a nuclear conflict. If it was still assumed in the summer of 2021 that the extension of the “New Start” treaty could be a real new start in the further development of nuclear disarmament, especially in a dialogue between Moscow and Washington, the signs have completely reversed here.

Only recently, the world community had been eagerly awaiting a meeting between the two largest nuclear powers. But immediately before the planned disarmament talks between Moscow and Washington, Russia canceled the meeting.

In any case, it is questionable whether Moscow has any serious interest in disarmament negotiations. Because despite severe losses in the war against Ukraine and deep sanctions-related cuts, Russia wants to focus on its nuclear forces and the development of an infrastructure for them in the coming year. With almost 6,000 warheads, Russia already has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world.

Oliver Rolofs is a security expert, co-founder of the Munich Cyber ​​Security Conference (MCSC) and former head of communications at the Munich Security Conference. There he was responsible, among other things, for the cyber security and energy security program.

China has also announced that it intends to further expand its position as a nuclear power. According to a report by the US Department of Defense, the communist-ruled country plans to quadruple its nuclear warheads by 2035. It is currently assumed that there are around 400 operational Chinese nuclear warheads. With the EU sanctions against Iran, the nuclear deal will also become obsolete and encourage the mullahs to expand their nuclear capacities more quickly. And North Korea is believed to be working on its seventh nuclear bomb test.

The sad trend of global nuclear armament, the current military conflict in Ukraine and mutual threats about the use of nuclear weapons are forcing us more than ever to ban these weapons internationally and to extend the prohibition regime. Irrespective of the fact that, despite the threatening gestures, a Russian use of the atomic bomb seems rather unlikely.

First, because it promises relatively little military gain for the Kremlin. Second, it is perfectly clear that not only the West, but also China, vehemently opposes such a move. And third, the use of a nuclear weapon would be an admission that the war in Ukraine is lost for Putin. Finally, there is a personal aspect: Even Putin, who sees himself in the tradition of the ultra-reactionary Tsar Nicholas I, does not want his only “legacy” to be the use of a nuclear weapon.

So Putin’s nuclear threat is simply a psychological ploy to keep the West from providing aid to Ukraine. Against this background, it is shameful that there are still voices calling for appeasement of Putin and a cessation of support for Kyiv.

It would be advisable to ignore the fears and emotions fueled by the media in the midst of the nuclear threatening gestures and instead to step up efforts for global nuclear disarmament in an increasingly insecure world and to support corresponding initiatives with new impulses.

A positive example in the fight against nuclear weapons is Kazakhstan – also driven by its own painful experience. The Central Asian country, which, along with Ukraine and Belarus, voluntarily renounced the possession of nuclear weapons from Soviet stocks as part of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, has wanted to ban them globally ever since.

As early as 1991, Kazakhstan abandoned the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal and destroyed over 1,000 warheads, including 100 SS-18 ICBMs aptly named Satan.

Kazakhstan has long been calling for a “planet earth nuclear weapons-free zone”. World peace cannot be guaranteed if nuclear weapons are created and maintained. All states must dismantle their nuclear weapons, so the clear demand of the ninth largest country in the world.

In 2009, on the initiative of Kazakhstan, the United Nations established the “International Day Against Nuclear Testing” on August 29th. August 29 also commemorates the closure of the Soviet nuclear test site in 1991, 150 kilometers from the Kazakh city of Semipalatinsk. The region around Semipalatinsk, today Semei, was one of the world’s largest test sites for nuclear weapons from 1949 to 1989, where over 2000 nuclear tests took place and where the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb on August 29, 1949.

Even today, in the Semei region, an area the size of Baden-Württemberg, people are born with physical and mental disabilities that can be traced back to the tests. It is those painful experiences, the destruction of life and the environment, and the futility of such weapons of mass destruction that drive Kazakhstan to lead the way in nuclear disarmament.

In 1992 Kazakhstan signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and placed all nuclear facilities under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In 2006, on a UN initiative, Kazakhstan founded the first nuclear-weapon-free zone in the northern hemisphere in Semei together with the neighboring states of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The “Universal Declaration for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons” presented by the then President Nazarbayev at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly was accepted as an official document of the United Nations on December 7th, 2015. Kazakhstan is also one of the 122 member states of the UN that approved the international nuclear weapons ban treaty.

At the same time, the former Soviet republic is the world’s largest producer and exporter of uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Low Enriched Uranium Bank in Oskemen, north-eastern Kazakhstan, supplies non-weapons-grade uranium for civilian use to countries that do not have uranium enrichment facilities. Kazakhstan provides the infrastructure for storing IAEA fuels.

The ATOM (Abolish Testing. Our Mission) project initiated by Kazakhstan is helping to spread information about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear tests and the use of nuclear weapons. The campaign calls on citizens who support the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world to take an active role in banning nuclear weapons testing.

These are a few examples that show that even in times of crisis and war it is worth sticking to the goals of nuclear disarmament and arms control – however far away a Global Zero seems at the moment, initiatives by Kazakhstan and other countries in the Global South deserve our full support , to draw a red line in the global arms race. Even in difficult times like these, we must not give up the vision of a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons.