Today, on 8 April 2010 the Presidents of Russia and the United States have signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START II, which is to replace the Treaty between the USA and the USSR on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START), signed on 31 July 1991, and expired on 5 December 2009.
The new START has already been called as a new significant step in bilateral relations between the Russian Federation and the United States. But, despite all the words about strengthening the international security, the real needs of non-nuclear-weapon countries, and especially the states that unilaterally forswear the nuclear weapons, were left behind the scene. Neither Barack Obama, nor Dmitrir Medvedev hasn’t declared clearly the willingness of their countries to increase credibility of security guarantees for unprotected “little” members of the international community.
As a result, after the expiration of the old START, Ukraine, a pioneer state which performed a unilateral nuclear disarmament, is left de jure unprotected from possible outside aggression by any clear legal mechanism. For this moment Ukraine is not a party of any international legally binding document, which may for sure guarantee its safety.
“There are no losers and winners. All the international community has won”, Dmitry Medvedev said to journalists at the joint press conference with Barack Obama. I would not agree with Mr. Medvedev. There is at least one loser – as it usually happens, the loser is Ukraine.
Let’s refresh our memory. The role of Ukraine in the global nuclear disarmament process may serve as a great example for any country of P5, taking to the account the unilateral decision of the country to become nuclear-weapons-free in early 1990s (last nuclear weapon left Ukraine in 1996).
Following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the nuclear armory heritage of Ukraine was estimated as the third-largest in the world. In 2002 Ukraine declared its willingness to forswear the nuclear arsenal (let’s not get into the details, why it was decided, and whether this decision was clear-eyed).
But in that early 1990s it was obvious that in return for forswearing one of the biggest nuclear arsenals in the world, Ukraine shall get significant security guarantees (including economy security). The providers of these guarantees should be Russia (as the recipient of the weapons) and the United States.
Such guarantees were impliedly (as Ukraine was one of the parties) provided by mentioned above and now expired Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START), signed by the USA and the USSR in 1991. To present a kind of extra-guarantees, after the Trilateral Statement by the Presidents of Ukraine, the USA, and Russia (14 January 1994), the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances was signed on 5 December 1994. This document was closely connected with the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of the Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in November 1994.
Budapest Memorandum was signed by Ukraine, Russia, United States, and United Kingdom. China and France assured their support and security guarantees for Ukraine in the diplomatic notes of 5 December 1994. No questions? There are a lot. The problem is that the Budapest Memorandum doesn’t contain the clear mechanisms of guaranteeing the protection for the country, its independence and territorial integrity from any threats. It presents only the mechanism of holding consultations, when such a threat may appear. Moreover, the decisions, taken during the mentioned consultations, may be vetoed by any member of the UN Security Council (for example, by Russia).
As a result, de jure Ukraine is not a member of any system of collective security today – and, de facto, is unprotected.
Years of efforts of Ukrainian diplomacy were dedicated to attempts to formalize the security assurances for Ukraine from nuclear weapons states. To accomplish this goal, a new comprehensive legally binding treaty shall be worked out, taking to the account the START Treaty expiration. This new Treaty shall be signed by all the nuclear states (P5), and should contain clear description of mechanisms of the implementation of security guarantees for Ukraine, including negative security assurances, as well as the responsibility of nuclear states for violation of these obligations. Such an approach will only enhance and strengthen the non-proliferation regime and global security, in particular in the context of establishment of nuclear weapon free zones.
The START II Treaty demonstrated that in can con be considered as such a document. The new document shows a kind of egocentrism of the super powers: the commitment of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to accede the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states was only “taken into account” in the preamble of the START II. Cold War ended, but the negligence to needs of ‘small countries’ is still present not only in presidents’ rhetoric, but also in multilateral documents.
Besides, the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych – during his first visit to Russia – proposed to sign the START II Treaty in Kiev, not in Prague. Such a decision could have served at least as a sign of respect to Ukraine as a country dedicated to global disarmament and non-proliferation. Unfortunately, this proposal was not taken seriously.
The next ‘point of hope’ for Ukrainian security is the NPT Review Conference, which is scheduled for May 2010 (New York). Hopefully, the new edition of the NPT Treaty will include some statements to guarantee peace and stability in one of the biggest states of European continent.