Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 06.12.2018
In light of the Russian Federation’s act of war against Ukraine on November 25, the Ukrainian government is demanding urgent consultations under the terms of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. The guarantors – the Russian Federation, the United States, and the United Kingdom – should have convened after the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas in 2014. Better late than never, the Budapest guarantors must convene after the Russians made a purposeful and unprovoked attack on the Ukrainian Navy in the Kerch Strait and in international waters of the Black Sea last week.
The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in connection with Ukraine’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was signed in Budapest, Hungary on 5 December 1994. This agreement just passed its 24th anniversary.
The Budapest Memo is an asymmetrical agreement, like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Ukraine was the world’s third largest nuclear weapon-armed power in 1994. Ukraine agreed to give up all of its nuclear weapons – thousands of them. Remaining nuclear weapon-armed powers – namely the Russian Federation, the USA, and the UK – promised “to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.” They also promised “to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.” These are the two key provisions of the Budapest Memorandum.
Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security assurances from the Russian Federation, the USA, and the UK. Ukraine kept its part of the bargain. The Russian Federation broke its promise when it invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014, changed Ukrainian borders by force, and waged relentless warfare against Ukraine – particularly on the battlefront in Donbas. The USA and the UK failed to keep their Budapest Memo promise when they failed to stop Putin at war, and failed to uphold Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
On December 5th, 24 years after the Budapest Memorandum was signed, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, appealed to the Russian Federation, the USA, and the UK, and “demanded urgent consultations to ensure full adherence to the commitments and immediate halt of the Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
Paragraph 6 of the Budapest Memorandum reads: “The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will consult in the event a situation arises which raises a question concerning these commitments.” The Putin regime has put off the invocation of the Budapest Memo for almost five years. After the Russian Federation’s defiant and insidious attack on the Ukrainian Navy’s vessels in the Kerch Strait and the Black Sea, the Budapest Memorandum must be adhered to now or it is truly dead forever.
The Russian Federation is at war with Ukraine. The Budapest Memorandum has failed to secure Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The rules-based international order is collapsing because of Russian aggression and because of promise-breaking by Western nuclear weapon-armed powers. Given the example of Ukraine under attack by the Russian Federation, no rational nation will ever again choose to give up nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
With the appeal given by Ukraine on December 5th, the United States and the United Kingdom have been given one last chance to redeem themselves. The US and UK can keep their word and save the rules-based international order from complete collapse. Either the Budapest Memorandum is redeemed, or the post-Second World War settlement is destroyed and Russian imperialist aggression against Ukraine wins.