Russian Seizure of Crimea Undermines Global Nuclear Security – UN Secretary-General

Kyiv, March 25, 2014. Russia’s military actions in Ukraine have undermined the reliability of the Budapest Memorandum, stated UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at today’s Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague (NSS 2014). The memorandum and the guarantees it provides are key tools for global cooperation on nuclear security and non-proliferation.

At the Nuclear Security Summit, Ban Ki-moon warned world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, that the Ukraine crisis could have serious consequences for the integrity of the global memorandum and for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons in the world.

In 1994, the Eastern European country of Ukraine signed an agreement known as the Budapest Memorandum with the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia as guarantors. The three latter states confirmed their obligation to “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” in exchange for the commitment, which Ukraine has dutifully fulfilled, to give up its nuclear weapons. Notably, the nuclear arsenal inherited by Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union was the third largest in the world after those of the U.S. and Russia.

However, the credibility of the assurances given to Ukraine in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 has been seriously undermined by recent events,” said the UN Secretary-General today, addressing the guarantor countries. In late February Russia de facto sieged Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, later documenting the annexation. Russia violated Ukraine’s territorial integrity during a time of protracted mass protests against the pro-Russian then-president Yanukovych.

While it was Russia that directly violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine that it had committed to guarantee, Ban Ki-moon also denounced the actions, or more precisely, the failure to act, of the remaining guarantors. He stated that security assurances provided to non-nuclear-weapon states by nuclear-weapon states should be honored, adding that security assurances were an essential condition for Ukraine’s joining the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a 189-nation anti-nuclear weapons pact, in the first place, according  Reuters.

The implications are profound, both for regional security and the integrity of the nuclear non-proliferation regime,” the UN Secretary-General said to the 53 state leaders present at the summit. He reiterated that “this should not serve as an excuse to pursue nuclear weapons, which will only increase insecurity and isolation.” The three states’ failure to respect their guarantees for Ukraine could discourage other countries from giving up their nuclear capabilities, he concluded.

In his NSS 2014 opening speech Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the participants of the summit would use the opportunity to discuss pressing issues, including the Ukraine-Russia crisis, not directly connected to the summit agenda. Thus, at the summit, President Obama was also working to secure support from key European allies and China to isolate Russia because of its military occupation of Crimea, according to Reuters.