Making Sense of What's Happening in Ukraine

Updated: April 25, 2022

Over the past several weeks, nuclear weapons have reentered the news in shocking developments that many of us have not witnessed in our lifetime. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, killing of civilians, and overt nuclear threats have shaken us to the core. It is unreal and yet very real at the same time.

While it is undeniably unnerving to process, it is an equally empowering and stark reminder of the urgency for why we must continue to fulfill the 40-years-plus mission of Ploughshares Fund to eliminate nuclear weapons. As an immediate response to the unfolding crisis, we will be sharing updates on the proactive impact and responses by our partners who are explaining vital facts and pushing back against dangerous nuclear narratives. And, as always, our podcast – Press the Button, which you can access through the podcast button in the top toolbar – will feature leading voices.

Turn to Ploughshares Fund as we make sense of what’s real and what’s noise in this complex and heartbreaking situation.

What if Putin Uses a Nuke?
Ploughshares President Dr. Emma Belcher recently joined Deep State Radio Podcast to answer this and other questions many are asking regarding the war in Ukraine and the risk that role of nuclear weapons are playing in it. 

Nuclear Proliferation Is Not the Answer to the War in Ukraine
One unfortunate potential impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the increase interest of states in developing or hosting nuclear weapons. But nuclear proliferation is more likely to result in heightened financial costs and anxiety rather than increased security.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s message to the world: There can be no ‘sitting on the fence’ on Russia
Check out highlights from The Atlantic Council’s event this week with US Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, from her analysis on the economic impacts of the war in Ukraine to her predictions for the global economy ahead.

Biden’s Nuclear Strike Policy is the Same as Russia’s
On March 29, 2022, the White House released a short summary of Biden’s upcoming nuclear policy strategy, saying it would consider the use of nuclear weapons “in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States”. This decision to maintain first-strike authority makes the U.S. stance on nuclear employment almost indistinguishable from Russia’s. 

Is Russia’s War on Ukraine Raising Gas Prices?
Gas prices have risen sharply in the past few weeks — rising as high as $6 per gallon in some places in the US. The Cato Institute breaks down how the war in Ukraine has affected gas prices and the energy industry.

Kremlin Claims Bucha Massacre Was Staged by Ukraine
Over the weekend of April 2, journalists and Ukrainian officials reported dozens of dead civilians in Bucha, Ukraine. Now, the Kremlin is claiming that these pictures were staged despite the evidence of mass civilian casualties.

Russian Forces Leave Chernobyl
The Russian troops that took control over the former Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the early days of the war have now left for Belarus, according to the Ukrainian government. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists explains this update and what the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has to say about this development.

The Chilling Effect Russia’s War Has on Climate Science
Some parts of the Arctic have seen temperatures that more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they typically are. Yet progress and research in climate science is being hampered by Russia’s war on Ukraine — effects have ranged from preventing scientists from conducting fieldwork to interrupting longstanding diplomatic relationships. The Bulletin examines the intersection between Russia, nuclear policy, and climate science.

Putin Appears to Admit Defeat in the Battle for Kyiv
Kremlin officials have announced plans to withdraw troops from the Kyiv region, a move widely seen as Russia’s recognition of its failure to seize the Ukrainian capital. The Atlantic Council breaks down this development.

Assessing the Nuclear Risk
Listen to Tom Collina speak about the state of major powers' nuclear arsenals and the destruction they could cause on the Front Burner podcast.

“All Options Are On the Table” For NATO
How is NATO currently responding to the Ukraine crisis? Find out the takeaways from US Permanent Representative to NATO, Ambassador Julie Smith, provided by The Atlantic Council.

Should NATO Establish a Humanitarian No-conflict Zone in Ukraine?
Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced since Russia invaded nearly a month ago. The Atlantic Council makes the case for the establishment of a humanitarian no-conflict zone as one of the many ways NATO can help Ukrainians in the midst of this war.

How Will the Crisis in Ukraine Affect US Cyber Strategy?
While both the US and European officials have noted that cyber warfare have not been a significant feature of Russia’s initial offensive strategy, that does not mean that cyber defense is any less important. The Cato Institute analyzes the implications for US cyber policy and defense strategies.

What's the Deal with Tactical Nukes?
ICAN’s Beatrice Fihn pushes against the idea that tactical nukes are less destructive in a short twitter thread.

Unmute Yourself: Ukraine
The Unmute Yourself team is back. If you missed this conversation featuring Amy McGrath, Mari Faines, and Emma Claire Foley — no need to worry. Watch a recording of the conversation now and remember to join us next time the Unmute Yourself team comes together.

Why America Should Not Deepen Its Military Involvement in Ukraine
Director of Policy Tom Collina explains in a New York Times op-ed the reasons why, given the stakes, the US should continue to aid Ukraine while avoiding direct conflict with Russia.

Russia may have used a killer robot in Ukraine. Now what?
Pictures from Ukraine have identified a Russian-made drone, one that the manufacturer says can select and attack targets either through inputted coordinates of autonomously. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists analyze this new development.

Reading Between the Lines of Zelenskyy’s Address to Washington
Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Congress on Wednesday, March 16. Shortly after, President Biden pledged anti-aircraft and anti-armor weapons to support Ukraine. What does all this mean? Experts from The Atlantic Council explain.

India’s Stance on the Ukraine Crisis
For the 3rd time in less than a week, India abstained from voting against Russia at the United Nations to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Stimson Center explains India’s muted stance and why this move isn’t so surprising.

What’s Next for China’s Relationship with Russia?
How far will China and Russia take their “no limits” friendship? The Atlantic Council breaks it down.

What’s Left to Sanction in Russia?
Russia is feeling the effect of sanctions imposed by the US and European countries — but there could still be more to come. The Atlantic Council’s Brian O’Toole and Daniel Fried observe the escalatory options that the US and European countries could decide to enact which will further decimate Russia’s economy.

The Ukraine War: A Global Crisis
Experts from Crisis Group come together to assess the war from thirteen vantage points. Despite the wide condemnation of the Ukraine invasion internationally, there were noteworthy divisions among UN member states about how to respond. A wide array of political, cultural, and economic factors are shown to be the cause.

What Do We Know About Russia’s Nuclear Capabilities?
Federation of American Scientists’ Hans Kristensen discusses what we know about Russia's nuclear stockpile and capabilities with NPR.

Things That Go Boom: ‘Praying to Black Jesus’ in Kyiv
On this special bonus episode of Things That Go Boom, Terrell Jermaine Starr argues that we can’t understand Russia’s full-scale invasion — or the man behind it — without examining the country’s imperialist history. It’s a story President Vladimir Putin is leaning on today.

Pacifist but Not Passive in the Face of Injustice
Quaker pacifism in the time of war: The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) writes about the struggle of many Friends to make sense of their pacifism and the morality of their non-violent stance. While there is no easy answer to be found, author Emma Hulbert argues that “true pacifism is not inaction.”

Deciphering Putin's Nuclear Threats
On Press the Button, guest Jon Wolfsthal, senior advisor at Global Zero, discusses what Putin’s heightened nuclear alert means and the risks involved. On Early Warning, guest Sara Sirota, a reporter at The Intercept, covers the upcoming nuclear posture review and what changes might be made as a result of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine.

Will Russia Go Nuclear? Policy Director Tom Collina Answers
Read Policy Director Tom Collina’s op-ed in Defense One on the chances of nuclear war and the factors that might influence Putin to employ Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

No-Fly Zone in Ukraine: War with Russia by Another Name
The International Crisis Group breaks down precisely what it would mean if the United States or NATO were to declare a No-Fly Zone in Ukraine in this informative Q&A.

Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plant Fire: What Does It Mean?
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s James Acton has put together a short twitter thread on the dangers of the of the fire at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Plant in Ukraine.

Policy Director Tom Collina Answers the Question: Will Russia Go Nuclear?
Read Policy Director Tom Collina’s op-ed in Defense One on the chances of nuclear war and the factors that might influence Putin to employ Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

Program Director Michelle Dover’s List of Experts to Follow
With a lot of different opinions and analysis about Ukraine floating on the internet, it can be difficult to decide who to listen to. Program Director Michelle Dover makes this choice easier by putting together a comprehensive list of reliable nuclear policy experts.

The Ruble Goes Down; Bitcoin Goes Up
Russian oligarchs have found themselves subject to significant sanctions since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Cato Institute’s Matthew Feeney outlines why these oligarchs who attempt to use cryptocurrency to avoid sanctions will learn that this approach is unlikely to be successful.

Fighting Falsehoods in the Time of War
Fake news content often spreads more quickly in a time of crisis. To help combat misinformation and propaganda, Win Without War has put together a handy guide to identify accurate information and limit the spread of harmful false content.

The Bulletin's Day 7 Breakdown of Russia's Invasion of Ukraine
Looking for in-depth analysis and updates on Ukraine? The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists detail day 7 of the invasion: Russia’s first major seizure of a Ukrainian city, Ukrainian’s “creative” resistance, and the UN’s censure of Russia.

ICAN's Beatrice Fihn Published in Major Russian Newspaper
Beatrice Fihn — Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, and Ploughshares Fund partner – co-wrote an article urging Russia to "take steps to de-escalate the situation," along with 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dmitry Muratov.

Terrell Jermaine Starr's Reporting from Ukraine
Starr's personal, human-focused coverage of Ukraine shows first-hand how intense the situation is on the ground. His humane reporting highlights the destruction of war has been included in national cable news coverage almost every day since the invasion began last week. Follow his coverage on Twitter. Starr is the 2021 recipient of Ploughshares Fund's Estrin Award, which supports his podcast, Black Diplomats, and its coverage of Iran and North Korea.

Ploughshares Partners Share Expertise in VICE News
"Deterrence isn’t used to protect the country. Deterrence is used to be like, ‘I will do whatever I want with Ukraine and you are just going to be able to watch,'" says ICAN's Beatrice Fihn to VICE news. The article quotes Global Zero, Federation of American Scientists, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

Global Zero Highlights Risk of Halted Diplomacy
"Any personal relationship is immensely important when you are dealing with these issues of incredible consequence," Emma Claire Foley of Global Zero tells Politico's Bryan Bender in his article on decreasing diplomacy between the US and Russia since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine last week.

Policy Director Tom Collina on CNN
Policy Director Tom Collina spoke with CNN on the nuclear risk and implications of Putin's actions, reminding us all that use of a nuclear weapon "would be just a devastating catastrophic event on the group for those people there, but also for the world going forward."

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Emma Belcher, President