WSJ Editorial: Ukraine Surrendered Nuclear Weapons for Hollow Security PromisesBreaking News
tags: nuclear weapons, Russia, Ukraine
As the people of Ukraine steel themselves for a Russian attack, it’s worth recalling how the U.S. persuaded the country to give up its nuclear weapons. The event was the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, in which the U.S., Great Britain and Russia offered security assurances to the nation that had won independence when the Soviet Union dissolved.
That was the halcyon post-Cold War era when history had supposedly ended. Some 1,800 nuclear weapons were on Ukrainian territory, including short-range tactical weapons and air-launched cruise missiles. The U.S. wanted fewer countries to have fewer nukes, and U.S. credibility was at its peak.
The memo begins with the U.S., U.K. and Russia noting that Ukraine had committed “to eliminate all nuclear weapons from its territory within a specified period of time.” Then the three countries “confirm” a half-dozen commitments to Ukraine.
The most important was to “reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.” They also pledged to “refrain from economic coercion” against Ukraine and to “seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine” in the event of an “act of aggression” against the country. Ukraine had returned all of the nuclear weapons to Russia by 1996.
Vladimir Putin made the Budapest Memorandum a dead letter with his first invasion of Ukraine in 2014. But the betrayal of Budapest isn’t forgotten in Kyiv, as President Volodymyr Zelensky noted bitterly in weekend remarks in Munich.