The Ukraine Crisis Is Unsettling Decades-Old Nuclear-Weapons Agreements

The acting president of Ukraine has taken to the pages of an American newspaper to warn Russia and other nations.

Bombs and torpedoes in military soviet bunker, Korosten, Ukraine.  
National Journal
Marina Koren
See more stories about...
Marina Koren
March 12, 2014, 7:21 a.m.

The crisis in East­ern Europe has promp­ted many com­par­is­ons by U.S. law­makers to the Cold War. But the latest men­tion comes from an ocean away, from Ukraine it­self, and it re­sur­rects a fo­cal point of that con­flict: nuc­le­ar weapons.

Oleksandr Turchynov, the act­ing pres­id­ent of Ukraine, took to the pages of The New York Times on Wed­nes­day to warn Rus­sia that us­ing force in Crimea could back­fire.

“Ukraine and Rus­sia are two sov­er­eign states, and the Ukrain­i­an people will de­term­ine their path in­de­pend­ently,” Turchynov wrote. “The re­fus­al to ac­cept this fact will lead, at the very least, to a new Cold War.”

In 1994, Ukraine sur­rendered its en­tire nuc­le­ar-weapons stock­pile — the third largest in the world at the time — in ex­change for se­cur­ity as­sur­ances from the United States, Bri­tain, and Rus­sia. The agree­ment called for the three na­tions to re­spect Ukraine’s in­de­pend­ence and ter­rit­ori­al in­teg­rity, and pro­hib­ited them from the use or threat of force against the coun­try.

“If this agree­ment is vi­ol­ated, it may lead to nuc­le­ar pro­lif­er­a­tion around the world,” Turchynov said. 

“An es­cal­a­tion of con­flict would be cata­stroph­ic for the whole of West­ern Europe,” he con­tin­ued. “It would put an end to the glob­al se­cur­ity sys­tem, breach­ing its very found­a­tion. These are very real risks.”

Pavlo Riz­an­en­ko, a mem­ber of the Ukrain­i­an Par­lia­ment, told USA Today on Tues­day that Ukraine may have to arm it­self with nuc­le­ar weapons if the U.S. and oth­er world powers don’t hold up their end of the bar­gain. “We gave up nuc­le­ar weapons be­cause of this agree­ment,” he said. “Now there’s a strong sen­ti­ment in Ukraine that we made a big mis­take.”

On Fri­day, a spokes­man for Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin de­fen­ded Rus­sia’s ac­tions in Ukraine. However, he said he hoped a new Cold War would not break out, des­pite “ex­tremely deep dis­agree­ments of a con­cep­tu­al nature between Rus­sia and the European Uni­on and the United States.”

In his Wed­nes­day op-ed, Turchynov said Ukraine is open to “con­struct­ive dia­logue” with Rus­sia. “Rus­sia must choose how it will re­spond,” he said. This sen­ti­ment il­lus­trates the nature of the cur­rent stan­doff between Ukraine and Rus­sia. Each side is ant­ag­on­iz­ing the oth­er — Rus­sia by send­ing in­creas­ing num­bers of troops in Crimea, Ukraine by sid­ing with the West — but neither will shoot first.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4809) }}

What We're Following See More »
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
1 days ago

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
2 days ago

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
2 days ago

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
2 days ago
California: It’s Not Over Yet
2 days ago

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.