Ukraine was conned

Andrew L. Urban

All three signatories to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum promising protection for Ukraine against attack in return for Ukraine abandoning all of its nuclear weapons, have failed to abide by that agreement. The Russian Federation most egregiously by invading Ukraine, the US and the UK by failing to provide immediate and direct military protection to Ukraine by confronting the Russian invasion.

This flagrant breach of an international security commitment is the cold reality in the hot war.

Through much wringing of hands, the US administration worried what Putin would think and do if it provided fighter jets to try and secure Ukraine airspace. They in  fact had – and still have – an obligation to do so. At the very least.

The Memorandum is exactly what the US and the UK should have invoked to respond to Ukraine’s plea for help. For a start, it is a sovereign country and it is not up to Russian President Vladimir Putin to determine by threats who and how Ukraine defends itself. Nor is it rational to debate which weapons are defensive, which are offensive. A weapon is defined only by its use, not by its design or capability. A knife can be defensive or offensive … as can a fighter jet.

Second, even though the Russian Federation has failed to abide by the Budapest Memorandum that it signed, that does not absolve the other two parties from the responsibility to do what they promised. It was a giant leap of faith for Ukraine to hand over its nuclear arsenal for (supposed) destruction by Russia. It now looks like a con. At least, it has become a con by dereliction of duty.

THE MEMORANDUM:

The following is the text of the Memorandum on Security Assurances, known as the Budapest Memorandum, in connection with Ukraine’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signed Dec. 5, 1994.

The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,

  1. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE [Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe] Final Act, to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.

[ Russia has violated this undertaking]

  1. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

[ Russia has violated this undertaking]

  1. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE Final Act, to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind.
  2. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine, as a non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used.
  3. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm, in the case of the Ukraine, their commitment not to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, except in the case of an attack on themselves, their territories or dependent territories, their armed forces, or their allies, by such a state in association or alliance with a nuclear weapon state.
  4. 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.[ Russia has violated this undertaking]

This Memorandum will become applicable upon signature.

Signed in four copies having equal validity in the English, Russian and Ukrainian languages.

***

Most politicians and even usually astute observers have fallen into the trap of allowing Putin to call the shots, shape the conflict and break the law. The laws. And to unilaterally rip up the Budapest Memorandum.

“The central question for Americans from the start of the war in Ukraine was what role, if any, should the U.S. government play in that war? A necessarily related question: if the U.S. is going to involve itself in this war, what objectives should drive that involvement?” writes Glenn Greenwald, a respected, award winning and usually well informed American journalist, in his Substack column.

Well, there is the problem: asking the wrong question/s. The Budapest Memorandum is the answer to the question/s. The US should adhere to its promise to protect Ukraine, with the objective of driving Russian forces out of the country. And the same obligation lies at the feet of the UK.

Had the US & UK acted immediately, they would have not only saved Ukraine but would have denied Putin an opportunity to claim any escalation by them in the conflict.

The trust on which such agreements rely has been shattered. But it’s not too late. Read the Memo. Save face. Act now. Save lives.

But in fact, as strategic intelligence office Rebekah Koffler explains, “The Budapest Memorandum was probably not invoked because it lacks the enforcement “teeth”. It’s a political agreement rather than an official treaty, so it’s not legally binding. While it provides promises to Ukraine, in an event of a potential invasion, it doesn’t stipulate specific security measures and steps to be taken by signatories to help Ukraine defend itself.

“Washington knows that it has little to no leverage over Russia. Moscow doesn’t live by the international law — which it believes favors Western interests and worldview — and even violated several arms control treaties. So the US and Western leaders probably think it’s pointless to invoke this “gentleman’s agreement” with someone who is a KGB operative rather than a gentleman.”

The fact that the agreement has no enforcement teeth, as Koffler puts it, shames the US and UK leadership. It reveals a timidity that is deadly, a failure to honour an agreement that will echo down the years and a betrayal that should not be forgotten.

Andrew L. Urban is the co-author (with Chris McLeod) of Zelensky – The unlikely hero who defied Putin and united the world (Wilkinson Publishing – coming in April 2022)

 

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1 Response to Ukraine was conned

  1. Peter versi says:

    When another Country invades …. Everything you do to stop them or defeat them or expel them , is in fact defense of your country. It would only be offensive use of weapons if you followed them as they retreat and you start bombing their people and their cities on their side of the border. NATO should have Marched into Ukraine in support of the accord to protect Ukraine the minute they saw Russian armies massing on Ukraine’s border The one who promised their protection is their invader. The other 2 signatories have refused to provoke Russia. Bit late for that….don’t you think ? Honour the Budapest Memorandum. Get out or we’ll throw you out. ! Don’t threaten nuclear response. No need , ! We won’t follow you into Russia . And US andBritain can act alone . They are the only two other signatories to the Budapest agreement. ! They have the obligation to honour the agreement. No need for Nato . This will be a defensive action …44 million people need help that was promised and the world is watching. Pv

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