Since the outbrak of hostilities in Ukraine a year ago, historians, columnists and various writers have cited the Budapest Memorandum as an example of what a villain Putin is and how cowardly the west has responded. The time has come to put this in its proper perspective.
After the break up of the USSR, nuclear weapons lay scattered across former Soviet Republics. The largest number, about 1900 Soviet strategic nuclear weapons, designed to strike the USA were in Ukraine. It was therefore imperative to make sure that the demise of the Soviet Union did not increase the number of nucelar armed states. Washington brokered with Kiev and Moscow the terms under which Ukraine agreed to eliminate the strategic missiles, missile silos and bombers on its territory and to transfer the nuclear war heads to Russia for disassembly.
In December 1994, Ukraine, Russia, Britain and the U.S.A. signed the Budapest Memorandum to provide Ukraine with security assurances on condition Ukraine will commit itself to eliminating all nuclear weapons from its territory within a specified period of time and will remain a NON-Nuclear state.
It was not a formal treaty but rather a diplomatic document under which signatories made promises to each other as part of the denuclearization of the former Soviet Republics.
It was a wonderful Christmas gift for the U.S.A. – something nobody had even dreamed of. For more than 40 years, the United States and the Soviet Union had been locked in a vicious and global struggle that by sheer chance did not end in a nuclear holocaust. Thousands of Americans fought and died in wars that were supposed to stop the advance of communism – in the mountains of Korea and in the jungles of Vietnam.
Now, a formidable adversary, armed to the teeth. disintegrated into a dozen smaller states without a shot being fired. The Soviet Union was no more. President George H.W. Bush, had, a couple of years earlier, referred to the implosion of the Soviet Union as changes of almost biblical proportions and declared that by the Grace of God, America had won the Cold War and announced the dawning of a new world order, with America being the one, sole pre-eminent global superpower.
While the west celebrated, newly declassified documents reveal that the United States actually tried to prolong the collapse of the Soviet Union. They worried that the drive for independence by leaders of other Soviet republics would usher in a mad and frantic effort to acquire nulcear weapons that lay scattered across Eastern Europe. The Americans definitely wanted Russia to be the sole owner of that nuclear arsenal and to maintain its influence in the Central Asian republics. Its main aim was not just victory over the Soviet Union but to prevent a civil war in the Soviet Union – the Balkanization of Russia with nuclear weapons in the hands of unpredicable Central Asian republics.
It therefore boggles the mind that a western backed fascist coup would violently overthrow a duly elected president of Ukraine and usher in the violence and tragedy that now prevails in that country. The only peaceful solution is for the west to admit it blundered into the Ukraine crisis; to study the past and to embark on a peaceful path to the future.