Ukraine, Russia, and the NPT

By Daryl G. Kimball (UPDATED: March 9)

President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send Russian military forces into the Crimean region of Ukraine earlier this month—on the basis of the claim that Ukraine’s discredited former President Viktor Yanukovich requested Russian intervention—has put the world on edge and created one of the most serious political confrontations between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.

Two Ukrainian air force officers walk away from their decommissioned Tupolev Tu-22M-3, "Backfire" strategic, nuclear-capable bomber in 1996.

Two Ukrainian air force officers walk away from their decommissioned Tupolev Tu-22M-3, “Backfire” strategic, nuclear-capable bomber in 1996.

The Russian military deployments in Crimea not only compromise the integrity of a sovereign country in violation of international law, but the Russian actions are inconsistent with the explicit commitments given to Ukraine in the 1994 deal to help secure Ukraine’s non-nuclear status and bring it into the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). As such, Russia’s actions are also a threat to the integrity of the NPT regime, a cornerstone of the global security system upon which Russia, the United States and more than 190 states depend.

As detailed in an authoritative article in the January 1995 issue of Arms Control Today by Sherman W. Garnett, “Ukraine’s Decision to Join the NPT” (republished further below), the government of Ukraine made the very important decision to remove the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union, join the START I Treaty, and become a nonnuclear weapon state party to the NPT.

Ukraine’s decision, Garnett explains, was made on the basis of the January 1994 trilateral statement by then-Presidents Leonid Kravchuk, Bill Clinton, and Boris Yeltsin. That statement, later formalized in December of 1994, linked U.S. and Russian nonproliferation objectives to Ukraine’s economic and security concerns._

To help implement Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament, Russia agreed to provide Ukraine with fuel rods for Ukrainian nuclear reactors containing low enriched uranium equivalent to the highly enriched uranium removed from the Ukrainian nuclear warheads that were transferred to Russia for dismantlement. For its part, the United States made available substantial resources and technical assistance through the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program to help with the elimination of Ukraine’s missiles and silos, bombers and related infrastructure.

Without these bold steps, Ukraine would have been the third largest nuclear-armed state with 176 long-range ballistic missiles and 42 strategic bombers armed with more than 1,800 nuclear warheads, and a potential source of instability in the post-Soviet era.

The denuclearization of Ukraine was—and still is—in the security interests of Ukraine, Russia, Europe, and the entire international community.

For Ukrainian leaders, the nuclear arsenal they inherited from the Soviet Union was a security and managerial liability and not a useful military asset.  Its liquidation opened the way for expanded economic assistance and well-defined security assurances.

To help assure the newly independent Ukraine that its security would not be compromised, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States formally agreed to respect its independence and refrain from economic coercion. They formally pledged in the Dec. 5, 1994 Budapest Memorandum to “refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine’s territorial integrity.” (See full text, further below.)

However, the Budapest Memorandum is a political document, not a treaty, and it has no enforcement mechanism. Russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials refused to join a meeting held last week to discuss concerns about the Budapest Memorandum with U.S. and Ukrainian officials.

Nevertheless, Russia’s actions clearly undermine the security assurances of the Budapest Memorandum and, unless Russia returns its troops to their home bases and refrains from annexing Crimea, they will have a chilling effect on efforts to assure nonnuclear weapons states that their security will not be threatened by NPT nuclear weapon states.

The Crimean situation and its implications for the NPT will likely be—and should be—the focus of many comments at the upcoming Preparatory Committee Meeting for the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

All NPT states parties should insist that key parties work toward a political solution to the crisis in Crimea that maintains Ukraine’s territorial and political integrity, in part because it matters for the cause of nuclear nonproliferation.

New START and Russia’s NPT Disarmament Obligations

In another potentially damaging move, Russian media reports published today suggest that Russia’s Ministry of Defense is prepared to suspend receiving inspection teams as required under the 2010 New START Treaty because of “threats” to Russia from the U.S. and NATO over Russia’s policy towards Ukraine.

According to the RIA Novosti source, “groundless threats to Russia from the U.S. and NATO regarding its Ukrainian policy are considered by us as an unfriendly gesture and allow to declare force majuere.”

According to the Part Five, Section IX of the Protocol of the New START Treaty, the only basis for the cancellation of inspections are “circumstances brought about by force majuere,” which is an event that is a result of the elements of nature, as opposed to one caused by human behavior.

U.S. Air Force personnel perform New START Treaty inspection training on a Minuteman III ICBM payload section at Minot AFB in 2011.

U.S. Air Force personnel perform New START Treaty inspection training on a Minuteman III ICBM payload section at Minot AFB in 2011.

As Tony Blinken, President  Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser, said on Meet the Press March 9, ceasing inspections as required by New START would be “a serious development.”

Such a step, if pursued by the Russian Federation, would be an unnecessary and destabilizing response to the crisis in Ukraine that would threaten to unravel New START at a very critical time.

It is not in the interest of either the United States or Russia to walk away from New START, which establishes clear, verifiable limits on each sides remaining strategic nuclear arsenals and a measure of stability in an otherwise strained bilateral relationship.

Even before the Ukraine crisis, Russia had refused failing to agree to pursue further reductions of their strategic nuclear arsenals beyond New START. In 2013, President Putin rebuffed President Barack Obama’s proposal to pursue a further one-third cut below New START levels (1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 delivery vehicles). As I explained in an article in June 2013 in The Moscow Times, “Adjustments to nuclear and military postures certainly require careful consideration, but it is already clear that maintaining the status quo is not in the strategic interests of Moscow or Washington.”

The P-5 have been under intense criticism from nonnuclear weapon states for failing to make concrete progress on a number of the disarmament commitments they made in the 2010 NPT Review Conference Final Document and for failing to engage in a dialogue on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons.

Any actions that lead to the unraveling of New START would compound international condemnation of Russia’s nuclear weapons and disarmament policies.

Russia and the other NPT nuclear weapon states have a responsibility to further reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons and to refrain from actions that threaten the security of the NPT’s nonnuclear weapon state majority.


Ukraine’s Decision to Join the NPT

By Sherman W. Garnett, Arms Control Today, January/February 1995

 

Sherman W. Garnett is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Before joining the Endowment, he served as the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia.

 

The overwhelming vote (301-8) by the Ukrainian parliament (Rada) November 16 to accede to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), only days before President Leonid Kuchma’s visit to Washington, came as a surprise to many observers who had anticipated far stronger opposition or even rejection of the treaty. In an atmosphere of growing competition within Ukraine between the executive branch and parliament over economic reform and political power, there appeared to be little time or inclination for the Rada to act before Kuchma’s departure.

        

           Further, many analysts believed that if the Rada did act it would likely impose conditions at least as severe as those it attached to its ratification of START I in November 1993, which threatened to stymie momentum toward nuclear disarmament. Not without reason, given Kiev’s long period of vacillation on the issue of NPT accession, there were thus many who expected the struggle with the Rada to spill over into 1995.


          But despite the pessimism expressed by most observers, it is possible, especially in retrospect, to see the decision to accede to the NPT as the inevitable result of the strategic deal struck by then-President Leonid Kravchuk and Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in their trilateral statement of January 1994 (in which U.S. and Russian nuclear non-proliferation objectives were linked to Ukraine’s security and economic concerns) and the growing confidence of all parties that this three-party arrangement was not only working, but was quite clearly the best deal Ukraine was likely to get.  (See ACT January/February 1994.)           

          The Rada could remain, for some time, the last holdout, but it was unlikely, by itself, to reverse the trend toward Ukrainian nuclear disarmament.A number of factors helped to create and sustain the momentum in Ukraine that eventually led to NPT accession. A key ingredient in bringing about these favorable developments was Washington’s early and steadfast pursuit of clear nuclear arms control and non-proliferation objectives. The ability to provide “Nunn-Lugar” financial assistance for denuclearization also played a role. 

          And while it would be possible to retrace the many twists and turns of the internal debate and diplomatic negotiations that have made the saga so uncertain and frustrating, it is perhaps more worthwhile to highlight four main factors that contributed to the general momentum toward nuclear disarmament and the Rada’s accession vote.[i] These factors include the demographic and political make-up of Ukraine; Russian policy and pressure; the shift by the Clinton administration to a broad-based Ukrainian policy that made possible the trilateral statement- and the strategic deal it represents; and, finally, the relationship between the Rada and the executive branch within Ukraine itself.

Demographic and Political Factors

There is no question that in the early days of independence the Ukrainian government considered a range of options on the nuclear question. There were voices questioning the wisdom of the Rada’s early commitment to nuclear disarmament, and there were scientists and facilities that gave Ukraine the technical capabilities to work toward establishing operational control of the weapons on its soil if it desired to do so.

            But it is unlikely- particularly after the withdrawal to Russia of all Soviet tactical nuclear weapons by mid-1992- that the Kravchuk government ever regarded the remaining nuclear weapons as anything other than bargaining chips. President Kuchma, despite early grumbling about the nature and extent of security assurances from Moscow or Washington, or the amount and pace of assistance, has consistently followed Kravchuk’s policy of nuclear disarmament in exchange for expanded economic assistance and well-defined security assurances.

            This constancy of policy by the executive branch was obscured in the West for a number of reasons. There were strong voices within the Rada- particularly in the nationalist parties- urging Ukrainian “ownership” of the nuclear weapons or flatly telling the government to keep the weapons. The nationalistic rhetoric of the Kravchuk government made it seem that these parties had much more influence over policy than they actually had. Frequent Russian warnings about Ukrainian technicians to service the remaining strategic weapon systems without incident further clouded the atmosphere. Finally, for many it seemed only reasonable that Ukraine would strive for a nuclear deterrent in light of its historical relations with Russia.

            On the other side of the ledger, however, are demographic, institutional, and political factors that, from the very beginning, militated against the retention of nuclear weapons. First, the ethnic, political and economic diversity of Ukraine inevitably creates incentives for moderation at the center. Often seen as a hopelessly divided country, Ukraine’s largest ethnic-Russian minority (11 million in a population of about 51 million, according to July 1992 census figures) is- with the exception of Crimea, which is a special case- fully integrated into the political and economic life of the country. Ukraine is governed as a political and territorial, not an ethnic, state. Diverse ethnic and political forces are part of the governing class. Thus, for many Ukrainian citizens- not just for the ethnic Russians- it is difficult to conceive of Russia as an enemy to be deterred by nuclear weapons. Polls showed that wile a majority may have considered Russian policy toward Ukraine coercive, only one-third of the population favored retaining nuclear weapons as a deterrent.[ii] A nuclear weapons option would thus be destabilizing internally- a fact often missed by outside observers but apparently understood from the beginning by the Ukrainian leadership.

            Second, with the exception of the nationalist Ukrainian Officers Union, the Ukrainian military lobbied consistently against the nuclear option. While not all officers are anti-nuclear and many of Ukrainian decent harbor deep suspicions of Russia’s long-term intentions, the sad state of the Ukrainian armed forces- and the lack of adequate financial support from the government- has created in the senior military leadership and ardent lobby for basic social services for the troops and the development of effective conventional land, sea and air forces. In late 1993, one senior advisor to then-Ukrainian Minister of Defense Konstantin Morozov told this author that nuclear weapons were not a serious military issue at all, but rather a part of the “political maneuvering” over power.

            Senior military leaders knew that a nuclear weapons option would swallow up the very resources they needed to take care of their troops and build a national armed force. They understood the cost of command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) and Ukraine’s technical problems in maintaining a nuclear force over the long term. While this state of military affairs is by no means permanent, it will be years before the Ukrainian military has satisfactorily addresses its basic requirements for the supply, housing and training of its conventional forces.

            Third, senior members of the executive branch, including President Kravchuk and then-Prime Minister Kuchma, understood that a nuclear-armed Ukraine would not only justify Russian pressure and intervention but would also isolate the country from the West. Kiev’s immediate problems, such as internal political stability and the state of the economy, would be exacerbated, not resolved, by nuclear weapons. Ukraine needed outside political and economic assistance to address its internal needs and to help establish a period of quiet in Ukrainian-Russian relations. Because of clear and consistent U.S. and Russian nuclear non-proliferation policies the Ukrainian leadership saw that this assistance would not be forthcoming without progress on nuclear disarmament.

            This determination on the part of the Ukrainian leadership to swap nuclear disarmament for economic assistance and security assurances became clearer over the course of 1993, but was often obscured by a recalcitrant Rada, nationalist advocates of nuclear deterrence and the executive branch’s willingness to posture over nuclear weapons as part of the bargaining process. Outside observers who remained pessimistic therefore found much evidence to support their evaluations.

Russian Policy and Pressure

            Russia, like the United States, did not want to see the emergence of an independent nuclear force in any of the other new states of the former Soviet Union. On the basic nuclear objectives, there was never any “daylight” between Moscow and Washington that Kiev could exploit, a fact that reflects not simply common interest but great diplomatic skill in keeping the two policies in harmony. This required even more skill as U.S. policy toward Ukraine moved way from exerting pressure alone to a policy that added significant political, economic and security incentives for Ukraine. However, from the very beginning, Russia had a broad-based Ukrainian policy. Ukraine was an important new neighbor, even if many in Moscow accepted this fact only reluctantly. Russia had to work out arrangements for trade, energy, supplies, the division of conventional military assets, and a host of other questions.

           In the early days of the nuclear issue, Russia encouraged U.S. pressure on Kiev for nuclear disarmament and welcomed bilateral consultants on nuclear matters, but it clearly saw Ukrainian issues as primarily its own concern. In the early stages, any outside pressures or efforts to ensure that Ukraine would be a non-nuclear-weapon state were further abetted by general anti-nuclear sentiment in Ukraine in the aftermath of Chernobyl. Russia had a strong inclination to pursue these unresolved issues with Kiev bilaterally or within a multilateral context of its own creation, such as the commonwealth of Impendent States (CIS). The Russia military especially was suspicious of a trilateral negotiating forum that would give Kiev options for dividing Washington and Moscow, as well as granting the United States an equal place at the table on Ukrainian affairs. Thus, Russia pressed ahead with bilateral talks on nuclear and many other issues and often reached agreements or near agreements on aspects of disarmament and transfer that were eventually incorporated into the final text of the trilateral statement.

            But these bilateral agreements rarely held together for very long, owing to the peculiarities of the Russian- Ukrainian relationship. In fact, summit agreements served more to release pressure in the relationship. After the first Russian-Ukrainian summit or two, neither leader could have had any illusion about the staying power of their agreements. Yet the very brittleness of the bilateral channel ultimately convinced both sides of the need for trilateral negotiations, but for very different reasons. The Russians saw that they could not coerce, cajole or pressure Ukraine to a final agreement that would be implemented. At the September 1993 Russian-Ukrainian summit at Massandra, where the two sides came the closest to resolving the nuclear issue themselves, other aspects of the bilateral agenda- particularly the division and basing of the Black Sea Fleet- split the Ukrainian government so severely that the agreement quickly unraveled.

            In the aftermath of Massandra, the Russian side saw that Ukrainian weakness was not simply something to be exploited, but rather an undesirable element, capable of causing great instability in the relationship and in the region. With this increasing concern about Ukrainian stability came an increasing, if reluctant, appreciation for the possibilities of a trilateral agreement.

            From the Ukrainian perspective, Massandra convinced Kravchuk that Ukraine’s internal weakness was seriously affecting the stability of his government. A deal had to be struck on nuclear weapons to obtain financial aid, debt relief and security assurances. But the bilateral negotiation would only encourage Russian pressure which Ukraine could not control. There is little doubt that Kravchuk’s experience at Massandra- where he was confronted by intense Russian pressure and deep division within his own government on the Black Sea Fleet issue- played a key role in his decision to accelerate negotiations with the United States and seek a trilateral framework for nuclear and security issues.

            But for such a framework to be effective, the United States had to put its own Ukrainian policy in order. It would be only a slight exaggeration to say that U.S. policy toward Ukraine before mid-1993 could be summarized as being absolutely right on nuclear issues and absolutely wrong on everything else. For the United States to achieve its nuclear objectives- and not simply pursue the correct nuclear policy- it had to change its policy toward Ukraine. Washington had to maintain the constancy and creativity of its nuclear disarmament policy while bringing to bear new political, economic, and defense levers to address Ukrainian concerns. The Ukrainian policy of the Bush administration, retained during the early months of the Clinton administration, was plagued by a monumental U.S. strategic miscalculation of the role Ukraine was to play in the region.

           President George Bush, speaking in Kiev just before the August 1991 attempted coup against then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, warned of the dangers of “suicidal nationalism.” This expectation within the U.S. government (and several other Western governments as well) that Ukrainian independence would lead inevitably to an extremist regime that would be in conflict with its non-Ukrainian population and, inevitably, with Russia, tended to deepen fears about the fate of nuclear weapons there. It made nuclear disarmament not simply a priority but an exclusive preoccupation of some U.S. policy-makers that, to Ukrainians, suggested that their legitimate concerns about regional security and internal stability were a matter of indifference to Washington.

            From the spring of 1993, the Clinton administration began to transform its Ukrainian policy, retaining its unclear objectives but broadening its relationship with Ukraine to include series economic, political and security discussions.

The U.S. Policy Shift

            The first real signs of a shift in the Clinton administration’s policy came with the visits to Kiev of Ambassador Strobe Talbott and Secretary of Defense Les Aspin in May and June of  1993. It was a policy that recognized the need for a strategic deal that linked U.S. nuclear disarmament objectives to a broad-based engagement with Ukraine and the establishment of a genuinely trilateral negotiating process with Ukraine and Russia.

            The diplomatic rhythm from the spring of 1993 right up to the signing of the trilateral statement in January 1994 was determined by this search for a broad strategic package of measures that would further Ukrainian disarmament, encourage economic and political reform and address Kiev’s basic security concerns. At the heart of this approach was the assessment that U.S. denuclearization objectives could not be obtained without giving the Ukrainians something in return, combined with a growing recognition that U.S. security interests were threatened by a failure of Ukrainian statehood.

            During the summer and fall of 1993, the defense dialogue expanded rapidly. Apsin visited Kiev in June 1993, and the following month Morozov came to Washington to sign the first memorandum of understanding between the United States and a newly independent state of the former Soviet Union. In October, the first bilateral working group on defense issues agreed to a broad program of military contracts and technical assistance. The two sides also held wide-ranging political talks and began to plan for high-level visits. At about that same time, discussions on economic assistance and reform also began in earnest when National Security Council Senior Director Nicholas Burns visited Kiev. Ukraine’s continuing economic decline, accentuated by strikes in the Donbass in the summer of 1993, contributed to the growing consensus among Ukrainian leaders that the time had come to resolve the nuclear issue.

The Trilateral Statement

           The trilateral statement and the three-sided negotiations were not simply about nuclear disarmament, but were the embodiment of a broader strategic deal that links nuclear disarmament to economic assistance and, most importantly, to Ukrainian security. The nuclear portions of the statement are well known: Ukraine committed itself to the elimination of all nuclear weapons located on its territory and the transfer of nuclear warheads on its territory to Russia for dismantlement. Ukraine was guaranteed compensation for the highly enriched uranium for its power reactors underwritten by an advance U.S. payment of $60 million. These and other provisions reaffirmed Ukraine’s commitment to complete nuclear disarmament over the period of START I implementation by transferring nuclear warheads to Russia, and, of greater immediate significance, the sides agreed on concrete interim steps that would lead to the early deactivation of all SS-24 ICBMs under a separate, secret arrangement that greatly accelerates the denuclearization process.[iii]

            Linked to these nuclear undertakings are specific security assurances the United States, Russia and Britain proposed to extend to Ukraine once it acceded to the NPT (see box). These security assurances were formally extended to Ukraine by the three NPT depositary states at the December 5, 1994 Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit, when Ukraine formally signified its adherence to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state (allowing START I to enter into force).

            Significantly, Russia’s assurances contain the strongest language to which it has ever agreed on the recognition of Ukraine’s existing borders. During recent conversations in Moscow and Kiev, Russian and Ukrainian officials told me that language on territorial recognition has been an important obstacle to the long-awaited Ukrainian-Russian friendship treaty, and it is worth noting that in all bilateral and multilateral documents (such as the December 1991 Minsk accord) Russia has agreed to the recognition of territorial integrity “within the framework of” the Soviet Union or the CIS.[iv] The language of the security assurances presented at the OSCE in Budapest and derived from the trilateral statement drops any linkage between Moscow’s recognition of Ukrainian territory and CIS membership.

            Moreover, these assurances, which are based on existing language in the Helsinki Final Act and associated with NPT, promise that Britain, Russia and the United States will refrain from the threat of use or use of force against Ukraine, will not employ measures of economic coercion and will not use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. These assurances have caused Kiev to desire and even expect that Washington will take an active interest in the broad range of security challenges facing Ukraine.[v]

            An important and often overlooked aspect of the trilateral statement was that it halted much of the negative “static” between Moscow and Kiev, especially regarding the safety of nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory, and facilitated a broad range of cooperative and smooth-running activities including technical discussions, weapons dismantlement, warhead transfers and inspections, plus U.S. financial payments and Russian deliveries of fuel rods so vital to the Ukrainian economy.

New Momentum and Stability

            The trilateral statement also brought into being a diplomatic framework of considerable value in addressing future security questions, which has already proved its worth by making possible a broader agreement that likely would have not come into being, or would have been delayed for years without U.S. participation. Washington’s involvement, while not radically changing the basic nuclear provisions that emerged from the Massandra summit, brought stability to both the conduct and outcome of the previously bilateral negotiations. In addition, the Untied States added financial and political resources to the deal and gave both sides confidence that a third party interested in the implementation of all aspects of the agreement would be an active participant.

            The momentum generated by the trilateral statement has inspired a renewed dialogue between Kiev and Washington on economic reform and assistance. Beginning with the Kravchuk visit to Washington in March 1994, the United States has expanded its bilateral aid to Ukraine and helped to arrange international assistance for Ukraine, Russia and Turkmenistan at an October donor’s meeting in Winnipeg sponsored by the Group of seven industrialized countries. Kuchma’s economic reform program has deepened Ukraine’s dependence on outside support. With the economic components of the relationship now catching up to the political and security aspects, there are now real incentives in the bilateral relationship- outside the nuclear arena- for sustaining nuclear disarmament.

Executive-Legislative Relations

            While the focus thus far has been on the overall outcomes- the pros and cons that eventually resulted in Ukraine’s decision to opt for nuclear disarmament- relations between the Ukrainian executive and legislative branches provide perhaps the best explanation of why the Rada acted so decisively in November 2004. At the outside, in analyzing this dynamic, it is important to avoid confusing the Rada with its rubber stamp communist predecessor or with a completely free and fully representative institution. The Rada is in transition, combining elements of its past manipulation by a handful of senior leaders with a more democratic future. In the months leading up to its November vote it often appeared to be an unruly opponent of the executive branch in its attempts to conclude a nuclear deal- and its co-conspirator.

            From mid-1992 and continuing throughout 1993, as elements within the Rada grew more vocal in their opposition to the transfer of nuclear weapons and as the Rada regularly and almost routinely postponed consideration of START I and the NPT, Western analysts could be forgiven for overlooking the way in which the Rada, at least at senior levels, maintained old communist traditions of control that meant most of the crucial decisions were left to its senior leadership. These leaders, in both the old and new parliaments, maintained close contacts with senior officials in the executive branch. This helps to explain why, at certain times, the Rada appeared an implacable opponent to nuclear disarmament, only to give in later on an issue of great importance to the executive branch.

            The Rada’s senior leadership essentially ensured that the institution served in 1993 as the “bad cop,” increasing the executive branch’s leverage in negotiations with Russia and the United States. But at no time were the strongest foes of nuclear disarmament in complete control of the Rada, and as conversations with parliamentarians subsequently revealed, many of those who signed the April 1993 letter asserting Ukrainian ownership of the nuclear components did so simply to increase Kiev’s negotiating leverage with Moscow on compensation issues.

            During 1993, the Rada helped to define the basic conditions that Ukraine sought and authorized the executive branch’s pursuit of an agreement to obtain them. It is also worth noting that although the many reservations attached to the November 1993 ratification of START I were widely seen as an attempt to derail the disarmament process, the text of the ratification resolution contains elements that strengthened the president’s hand, encouraging him to negotiate and permitted him to continue early weapons dismantlement.

            When the trilateral statement was signed in January 1994, these parliamentary leaders deftly handled the criticisms leveled at the statement by individual delegates, agreeing with leaders of the executive branch that it did not need to be formally presented to parliament for approval. The leadership also orchestrated the quiet ratification of START I without reservations in February 1994.

            This fall, instead of responding to the Rada’s insistence on a real strengthening of the security assurances promised Ukraine in the trilateral statement (once it joined the NPT), Kuchma pursued a revision of the format of the security assurances to permit Ukraine to be a signatory. He could not have done this with any confidence without prior negotiations with the leadership of the Rada, including Speaker Aleksandr Moroz, who publicly argued for a delay on NPT accession and even proposed a 1995 international conference to help work out the problems in the treaty to permit Ukrainian accession. It is also clear that the executive branch had a hand in working out the rather mild reservations that were attached to the Rada’s accession to NPT last November, again strengthening Kuchma’s hand in Washington and permitting him to define those reservations in a way that allowed the matter to be resolved at the December OSCE summit in Budapest, where it was made clear that Ukraine’s accession was unconditional. The NPT vote is thus the latest incident in which, at least at senior levels, the Rada revealed itself more a partner than an adversary of the executive branch.

            Second, the parliamentary elections in March 1994 and the presidential elections in July essentially shifted the fault line in Ukrainian politics from defense and security issues to economic and political reform. For one thing, the elections showed that parties favoring extremist security solutions and views, particularly on nuclear weapons, had nothing to offer voters concerned about economic collapse and political instability. Addressing these issues requires help from the West and cooperation with Russia. Both Kuchma and the Rada’s senior leadership, despite their differences, have an interest in ensuring and increasing the flow of Western assistance. Both, to varying degrees, opening criticized the trilateral statement and Western failures to deliver assistance promised in the statement. But neither had an interest in reversing the course of nuclear disarmament and thereby worsening ties with both the West and Russia. The Rada’s failure to act on NPT accession would have prolonged the West’s attention on nuclear issues.

            Finally, the Rada understood that failure to join the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state would undermine Kuchma’s effectiveness in Washington and Ukraine’s international prestige. This October in Kiev, a member of the Rada’s senior leadership told me that the prospects for NPT accession were brighter than many imagine precisely because no one in the Rada wanted to embarrass the president on the eve of an international visit. Of course, this kind of attention to national honor applies only because the nuclear issue was not a contentious one within the Ukrainian political leadership and Kuchma’s opponents saw nothing to gain but delay.

Broadening Ties and Assurances

            The Rada’s vote to accede to the NPT in November and the delivery of Ukraine’s formal instrument of accession to the NPT depositaries at the Budapest summit in December are the last legal steps in Ukrainian nuclear disarmament. What remains is the practical work of implementation, which has gone smoothly so far, but which nonetheless remains unfinished. If progress on this front continues, the case of Ukraine is likely to furnish diplomats with two important, related lessons.

            The first lesson is that with the collapse of the bipolar world, the days when nuclear arms control and non-proliferation policy could be pursued as a relatively autonomous undertaking are over. They key to success in U.S. policy toward Ukraine was the marriage of U.S. nuclear non-proliferation policy with a broad-based policy that supported economic and political reform and addressed Kiev’s security concerns. U.S. nuclear objectives remained constant, and Washington’s efforts to provide technical and financial assistance for dismantlement were similarly pursued with great constancy and creativity. But they were not, by themselves, sufficient, nor could they have been expected to be. The element that made the difference was the strategic linking of Kiev’s nuclear disarmament to a broadened U.S. and Western political, economic and security relationship with Ukraine.

            The second lesson follows from the first: The link between arms control and non-proliferation and other political, economic and security policies leads, at least in the case of Ukraine, to specific, major economic and political commitments that are far beyond the standard negative and positive security assurances and narrowly focused nuclear technical assistance of the past. It is unlikely the final deal would have been struck if Washington had not broadened its commitments, thus making U.S. nuclear gains in some sense a hostage to Ukraine’s larger problems.

            Washington is now working to support Ukrainian economic reform through bilateral assistance and diplomatic pressure designed to unlock other sources of funding. And the security assurances imply that the United States will play a role in addressing future Ukrainian security concerns, possibly even including Crimea and the division of the Black Sea Fleet. These commitments are not the same as the security guarantees the United States has with NATO or other treaty partners. Yet they cannot be empty promises either. At least, they cannot be if the United States and other Western countries understand the stakes involved in the success of the Ukrainian state- not simply for nuclear disarmament but for regional security and stability in a critical and potentially explosive part of the world.


BOX: U.S., Russian and British Security Assurances to Ukraine

Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection With Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

Budapest, December 5, 1994

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

            Welcoming the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a non-nuclear-weapon state,

            Taking into account the commitment of Ukraine to eliminate all nuclear weapons from its territory within a specified period of time, noting the changes in the world-wide security situation, including the end of the Cold War, which have brought about conditions for deep reductions in nuclear forces, confirm the following:

  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 respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.
  2. 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 other wise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used.
  5. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland reaffirm, in the case of 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.
  6. 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.

This memorandum will become applicable upon signature, signed in four copies having equal validity in the English, Russian, and Ukrainian languages.

      (Signed)

For the Russian Federation

For Ukraine

For the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

For the United States of America


FOOTNOTES FOR GARNETT ARTICLE:

[i] Several special issues of RFE/RI Research Report are devoted to the topic. See, for example, John. W. R. Lepingwell, “Ukraine, Russia and the Control of Nuclear Weapons,” RFE/RL Research Report, Vol. 2, No. 8, February 19, 1993, pp. 4-20. See also, Sherman Garnett, “The Sources and Conduct of Ukrainian Nuclear Policy: November 1992 to January 1994,” forthcoming in The Nuclear Challenge in Russia and New States of Eurasia, edited by George Quester, (M.E. Sharpe, Spring 1995).

[ii] See, for example, the two surveys reported in Ukrayina Moloda, May 21, 1993, and Holos Ukrayiny, August 6, 1993, which underscore how the divided polity within Ukraine forces consensus politics and complicates the search for a coherent policy on Russia.

[iii] The trilateral statement text is in RFE/RL Research Report, Volume 3, Number 4, January 28, 1994, pp. 14-15.

[iv] The existing prior agreements on territorial integrity amounted to conditional recognition of the existing frontiers, premised on Ukraine’s continuing participation in the CIS- a point stressed by Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev to the Russian parliament in April 1992. FBIS Daily Report: Central Eurasia, April 22, 1992, pp. 14-18.

[v] March 22, 1994, press conference in Kiev attended by the author, Ukrainian Defense Minister Vitaliy Radetsky invited the United States to mediate in Russo-Ukrainian negotiations on the division and basing of the Black Sea Fleet.

This entry was posted in Asia, Europe, New START, Non-proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Russia and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Ukraine, Russia, and the NPT

  1. Pingback: Ukraine Diplomatic Solution Sought, Despite Obama Sanctions

  2. Pingback: Die späte Rache des Professor Mearsheimer? Drei kurze Überlegungen zum Nuklearwaffenverzicht der Ukraine | sicherheitspolitik-blog.de

  3. Pingback: Ukraine and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum | The Intelligence News

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  5. me says:

    “The denuclearization of Ukraine was—and still is—in the security interests of Ukraine…”

    With the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Crimea, and Russian tanks massed on Ukraine’s borders, I should think this no longer the case–if it ever was.

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