Staunton, January 26 – As the Soviet Union entered its death throws, many there and in the West felt they had no choice but to support Moscow against the disintegration of the USSR lest the result be “a Yugoslavia with nukes” in which several of the countries that might emerge would have nuclear weapons and could use them.
Now, a writer for the pro-soviet Forum-MSK portal says, there is every prospect that the world, which succeeded in avoiding that outcome in the early 1990s, may face exactly that danger in the future because “after the departure of Putin from power, an explosion of national and regional separatism is inevitable in Russia” (forum-msk.org/material/news/16958432.html).
“At the time of the disintegration of the USSR,” Sergey Boytsov says, “there were according to some reports more than 35,000 nuclear weapons.” They were withdrawn from the territories of the newly independent states and are in Russia. “Now, there are 38 nuclear reactors and TENS OF THOUSANDS of nuclear weapons there.”
“If Russia disintegrates into 30 Bantustans, the generals will have to pull them out and keep them in the yard of the defense ministry of the Russian Federation in Moscow” because if that does not happen, nuclear accidents or the use of nuclear weapons by one or more of the post-Russian Federation states could have “unpredictable consequences for all of humanity.”
To make his point about how dangerous even the risk of accidents at nuclear power plants in such states could be, Boytsov talks about the impact of the April 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukrainian SSR was, an accident that still casts a shadow over Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian Federation.
The accident released radioactive materials amounting to 50 million curies, a figure equal to the amount that would have been released by “500 atomic bombs” like the one dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Ninety percent of the 190 tons of nuclear fuel at the Chernobyl plant were released into the atmosphere.
According to Boytsov, “almost 8.4 million residents of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia” were subject to excessive amounts of radiation, and in the first 20 years after the explosion, from 4,000 to 10,000 people died. Moreover, 150,000 square kilometers remain unfit for human habitation, although the exclusion zone is only “about 2,000” of these.
Some 60,000 of the 600,000 people who were sent to “liquidate” the accident have died since from illnesses produced by exposure to radiation, 165,000 of the liquidators have been left as invalids, and tens of thousands of people in the region have been or will die of cancers and other illness produced by exposure to the radiation released.
Three things make Boytsov’s article noteworthy. First, unlike most analysts, he suggests that the Russian Federation faces disintegration not only along ethno-national lines but along regional ones, a remarkable recognition by a Moscow writer of the power of regionalist and separatist attitudes among ethnic Russians.
Second, he argues that the nuclear threat of the disintegration of the Russian Federation may come as much from nuclear power plants as from nuclear weapons, raising a concern that 30 years ago received almost no attention but one that the consequences of Chernobyl mean should not be ignored.
And third, although Boytsov is an opponent of Vladimir Putin who he suggests has proved himself incapable of running the country, the Forum-MSK writer finds himself because of the nuclear issue compelled to support the continued existence of a single Russian Federation and thus opposed to the rights of nations or regions to self-determination.
Many may be inclined to dismiss Boytsov’s words as overly alarmist, but they matter both as a partial explanation for why many Russians feel they have no choice but to support the Kremlin and why many in the West need to begin to think how to avoid in the future what they feared in the past, “a Yugoslavia with nukes.”