Why Ukraine Gave up its Nuclear Arsenal?
- Ukraine has totally de-nuclearized between 1996 and 2001.
- Ukraine’s decision to give up nuclear weapons came after consultations with the United States and Russia, as well as substantial security assurances from the three founding members of the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) — the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom — as well as France and China. This was supported by NATO’s assurances that it would not expand in order to allay Russian worries.
- Now that Russian soldiers have infiltrated Ukraine’s borders, many Ukrainians are questioning if it was a mistake to de-nuclearize and whether having nuclear weapons would have been more effective in deterring Russia’s aggression against their nation.
- At the time of its independence from the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine had the third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world.
What is the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty?
- Start was a bilateral treaty signed by former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. It limited the number of ICBMs and nuclear warheads that the countries could possess.
- The treaty went through a period of turmoil when the Soviet Union ceased to exist, casting aspersions on its legitimacy.
- Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus signed a protocol in Lisbon in 1992 making them “successor states” of the Soviet Union
- The treaty obligated the successor states to join the Nuclear NPT at the earliest and the nuclear weapons were to remain under the control of a “single unified authority” until then.
- After extensive political manoeuvring, Ukraine ratified Start in February 1994 when it signed the Trilateral Statement along with the U.S. and Russia. Ukraine committed to full disarmament in exchange for economic compensation and security assurances.
- Ukraine transferred its last nuclear warhead to Russia in 1996 and dismantled its last strategic nuclear delivery vehicle in 2001.
What is the Budapest Memorandum?
- The Budapest Memorandum of Security Assurances is a political agreement between Ukraine, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S. It was signed in 1994.
- According to the memorandum, signatories Russia, the U.S., and the U.K. agreed to respect the “independence and sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine” after the country agreed to give up its nuclear stockpile.
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