Foreign Policy

The Budapest Memorandums for Security Assurances do not obligate the US to intervene in Ukraine

Treaty With Ukraine Is Not An Excuse For Intervention

 

            The Council for Good Governance is not staffed by pacifists or isolationists, by any means.  Most of us have served our nation’s defense in the intelligence and Special Operations communities.  We have, collectively, well over two decades in war zones.

Watching the Liberty movement get seduced by Russia, and Putin’s adroit exploitation of psychological warfare, is immensely saddening to many of us.  On the other hand watching political Hawks beat the war drum, while simultaneously depriving troops of the resources we need to accomplish our mission, using our veterans as means to a political end, angers us.

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The Russian annexation of Crimea, and the occupation of Ukraine (and let’s drop all pretenses to the contrary, unmarked uniforms aside), is complex, and we don’t claim to know the ‘right’ answer, but we would like to address an argument made here in The Libertarian Republic, and elsewhere, regarding the Budapest Memorandum for Security Assurances.

The Memorandum regarding Ukraine,  is quite short, and written in clear and concise language.  The full text of all four memorandums is here:

http://www.exportlawblog.com/docs/security_assurances.pdf

and the relevant text to Ukraine is here:

www.cfr.org/arms-control-disarmament-and-nonproliferation/budapest-memorandums-security-assurances-1994/p32484

The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,

Welcoming the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a non-nuclear-weapon State,

Taking into account the commitment of Ukraine to eliminate all nuclear weapons from its territory within a specified period of time,

Noting the changes in the world-wide security situation, including the end of the Cold War, which have brought about conditions for deep reductions in nuclear forces.

Confirm the following:

1.The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE Final Act, to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.

2.The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

3.The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the CSCE Final Act, to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind.

4.The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine, as a non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used.

5.The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm, in the case of the Ukraine, their commitment not to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, except in the case of an attack on themselves, their territories or dependent territories, their armed forces, or their allies, by such a state in association or alliance with a nuclear weapon state.

6.The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will consult in the event a situation arises which raises a question concerning these commitments.

This Memorandum will become applicable upon signature.

Signed in four copies having equal validity in the English, Russian and Ukrainian languages.

This is a post-Cold War agreement between the Russian Federation, the US, the UK, and Ukraine, in regards to nuclear non-proliferation, and to respect Ukrainian sovereignty.  It is not a mutual defense agreement.  It is not titled, as some have claimed, a Memorandum for Security Assistance.  It is three governments, the US, the UK, and the Russian Federation, agreeing, individually, to abide by the six points listed above.  There is no obligation to defense.

There is an obligation to appeal to the UN if Ukraine is victimized by threat or use of nuclear arms.  That situation has not occurred, thus no UN appeal is necessary.

There is an obligation to consult with one another if any questions regarding the agreement arises.  It seems clear that the US, the UK, and Russia have consulted, thus meeting their obligation – they simply disagree.

Russia has violated the Budapest Memorandum, not the US.  Ukraine is not an ally of the United States.  We have no defense pact with them.  They are not a NATO country.  Simply put, again, the US is under no treaty obligation to intervene in Ukraine.

It is important to understand that there are two distinct issues here that must be defined clearly. First, are we obligated to act?  The answer is no.  The second, and more important question is, should we act?  We don’t claim to have the answer to that question, and even discussing it would require a serious examination of our military capabilities at this moment.  There are moral arguments for intervention, and there are pragmatic arguments against it.  Let us discuss those issues, and bury the question of obligation.

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