Kyiv, November 2, 2015. Ukraine’s consent to get rid of nuclear weapons did not make the world safer. By contrast, the history of Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament proves that agreements and collective security system do not actually work in today’s world. This is the conclusion reached at the discussion at Ukraine Crisis Media Center on the topic “Has the world become safer after Ukraine nuclear disarmament? 21st anniversary of Ukraine’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.”
“Ukraine was a nuclear power since 1960 and produced rocket and space technology. We had the 3rd nuclear potential in the world,” said Volodymyr Tolubko, Colonel General, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor, member of Ukrainian parliament in 1990-1994. “The main argument of the world’s largest nuclear powers and other countries is that Ukraine should implement nuclear disarmament in order not to block the process of reducing global nuclear threat and the world stability. It is this thesis that was the main argument in various levels discussions,” said Yuriy Kostenko, Head of the Ukrainian governmental delegation in nuclear disarmament negotiations with Russia (1992-1993) and author of the History of Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament. According to Kostenko, Ukraine agreed with the request on nuclear disarmament at the extremely unfavorable conditions. It took over the main financial burden related to disarmament, agreed to transfer part of the arsenal to Russia, rather than destroy it, and only signed the Budapest memorandum, which “was not legally binding and did not guarantee military assistance.” Moreover, the expert added, the majority of Ukrainian politicians at that time shared pro- Communist views and perceived NATO as an enemy. As a result, the U.S. proposals for disarmament and strategic cooperation that were “both the best way to disarmament and a security guarantee” were ignored. “There were no analogous processes of depriving a state of its most powerful weapons. […] In the process of nuclear disarmament Ukraine did not only suffer nuclear devastation. Ukraine was a third-sort country in the process and hardly interested anybody in the world,” stated Kostenko. And Tolubko added that a ‘Who-Serves-What-State’ question remains, if such a decision may be adopted.
Experts noted that, in fact, Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament did not make the world safer. Now the international community faces even more challenges than in the early 90s. The conflicts in Syria and Eastern Ukraine alone create a huge threat. The latter, moreover, clearly showed that the collective security system does not actually work. “The UN system is mankind’s dream of a better future, but this dream is still a dream, because, in fact, under this right and beautiful “roof” there is strength. The stronger the country, the more respected it is. Another question is what kind of strength it is: whether it is only military or economic or a possibility to influence the position of other countries”, stated Volodymyr Ohryzko, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister in 2007-2009. In addition, emphasized Kostenko, in today’s reality, when the policy of Russia is completely unpredictable, and the U.S., despite its potency, is still unable to ensure order in the world, even NATO membership is not a 100 percent guarantee that in the case of aggression the member states will help. “Until a new collective security system is created, the world will strive for nuclear weapons, and use it if required. And the history of nuclear disarmament of Ukraine will be the most convincing argument for this,” concluded the expert.
Volodymyr Ohryzko and Yuriy Ruban, Head of the Humanitarian Policy Department of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine, Director of the National Institute for Strategic Studies in 2005-2010, emphasized that both the country’s ability to defend itself and international partners’ attitude to it, directly depend on the economic situation. So, increasing our economic power is among our priorities. In addition, experts said, that to improve its defensive capacity Ukraine should begin with a less ambitious project than restoring its nuclear potential. As a preliminary Ukraine should start manufacturing its own high-quality small arms, precision weapons and provide truly professional training for soldiers.
Besides, said Ruban, “weapons and military potency is merely the projection of the country’s political consolidation and economic power. If we are willing to go all this way to political consolidation, to the responsibility of politicians, to creating prerequisites for economic growth, to our government’s ability to accumulate resources provided by our economy for specific projects, only then other countries will speak with Ukraine on more serious subjects. “All other theses are meaningless until we have demonstrated here, in Ukraine, at our home, that we want changes, we want to be a civilized state, said Ohryzko. Now the time is really crucial. Either we cross the post-Soviet line and proceed with building a normal civilized society, or they turn away from us and say “you have lost your chance.” Therefore, said Ruban, it is important to use a ceasefire period in the East to conduct the reforms that “will limit the appetite of the ruling class in order to make policy a predictable one (including economic policy), to find resources for the Armed Forces in order to ensure at least minimal guarantees of security.”