The Ukraine Crisis and the Nuclear Threat

11 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2022 Last revised: 5 Apr 2023

Date Written: September 23, 2022


The Russian aggression against Ukraine has unleashed new fears of a nuclear war, also due to direct and indirect threats by the Russian side. As a consequence, it seems appropriate to re-open the debate about the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons, a debate led to somewhat inconclusive results by the ICJ Opinion of 1996 on the “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons”. If some elements of rationality are left in this war, nuclear weapons will not be employed in Ukraine. The major casualty of this rhetoric could, however, be the far-reaching de-legitimization of nuclear warfare achieved in the past. Therefore, time has come to re-examine the ICJ assessments of 1996 and to take a clearer stance in this regard which should be more appropriate as to the exigencies of modern international society. It is argued here that now the ICJ would come to different conclusions if seized again with the same questions as in 1996.

Suggested Citation

Hilpold, Peter, The Ukraine Crisis and the Nuclear Threat (September 23, 2022)., Available at SSRN: or

Peter Hilpold (Contact Author)

University of Innsbruck ( email )

Innrain 52
Innsbruck, Innsbruck 6020


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