U.N. Chief Warns Ukraine Incursion May Undercut Nonproliferation Regime

Global Security Newswire Staff
March 25, 2014, 7:46 a.m.

The head of the United Na­tions on Monday warned that ef­forts to stem the spread of nuc­le­ar arms are likely to be hampered by re­cent events in Ukraine.

In 1994, Kiev agreed to re­pat­ri­ate a large ar­sen­al of So­viet nuc­le­ar weapons back to Rus­sia in ex­change for prom­ises from Lon­don, Wash­ing­ton and Mo­scow — out­lined in the Bud­apest Memor­andum — that they would re­spect Ukraine’s ter­rit­ori­al in­teg­rity. Lead­ers in Kiev and the West say Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Ukraine’s Crimea Pen­in­sula earli­er this month vi­ol­ates that pledge.

Speak­ing in The Hag­ue, Neth­er­lands, U.N. Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon told lead­ers from 53 coun­tries par­ti­cip­at­ing in the 2014 Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Sum­mit that “the cred­ib­il­ity of the as­sur­ances giv­en to Ukraine in the Bud­apest Memor­andum of 1994 has been ser­i­ously un­der­mined by re­cent events.”

“The im­plic­a­tions are pro­found, both for re­gion­al se­cur­ity and the in­teg­rity of the nuc­le­ar non­pro­lif­er­a­tion re­gime,” the U.N. lead­er said.

Ban did not single out any one side for blame in the un­fold­ing events in Ukraine, but said “se­cur­ity as­sur­ances provided to non-nuc­le­ar weapon states by nuc­le­ar-weapon states” must be fol­lowed.

North Korea already has poin­ted spe­cific­ally to the ex­per­i­ences of Ir­aq un­der Sad­dam Hus­sein — as well as Libya un­der Muam­mar Qadhafi — as jus­ti­fic­a­tion for its own on­go­ing nuc­le­ar-weapons de­vel­op­ment. Years after the two dic­tat­ors gave up their re­spect­ive weapons of mass de­struc­tion pro­grams un­der in­ter­na­tion­al pres­sure, they were at­tacked by U.S.-led forces and saw their re­gimes toppled. The un­fold­ing crisis in Ukraine could fur­ther deep­en the Kim Jong Un re­gime’s be­lief that it needs a nuc­le­ar de­terrent to pro­tect it­self from a feared in­va­sion by the United States and South Korea.

Ban urged sig­nat­or­ies of the Nuc­le­ar Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty to use the 2015 treaty re­view con­fer­ence to take up the is­sue of provid­ing “un­equi­voc­al and leg­ally bind­ing” prom­ises to na­tions without atom­ic ar­sen­als that they would not be at­tacked by nuc­le­ar weapon pos­sessor coun­tries.

“To­geth­er, we must en­sure that nuc­le­ar weapons are seen by states as a li­ab­il­ity, not an as­set,” the former South Korean for­eign min­is­ter said.

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