With the Budapest Agreement in Ruins: What is the Future of Non-Proliferation Agreements?
2014-04-28 by Robbin Laird
With the breakup of the Soviet Union, a key challenge was the nuclear weapons on the territories of the former Soviet territories, which were now sovereign states.
For Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, determining what do with Soviet weapons and how to address their role in the future of their nascent national security policies was a central issue affecting their futures.
The United States was keenly concerned with the impact on global nuclear proliferation from either deliberate or accidental dispersal of nuclear materials and weapons from these three states.
In a forthcoming piece by Richard Weitz on Kazakhstan and its policies towards nuclear energy and non-proliferation, the key role, which an agreement signed in 1994, played in Kazakh decision-making was highlighted.
Instead of keeping the weapons as a security guarantee or offering them for sale to would-be nuclear weapons states or terrorists, Kazakhstan eliminated its nuclear and other WMD-related items or removed them to the Russian Federation and the United States.
In December 1994, Kazakhstan signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT) as a non-nuclear state. In return for renouncing Astana’s nuclear arsenal, Britain, Russia, and the United States offered Kazakhstan formal security guarantees—similar to those offered Ukraine at the time, which also eliminated the nuclear weapons left on its soil following the USSR’s demise.
But with Russian actions in Crimea, the agreement seems to be going the way of Kellogg-Briand Pact signed in 1928 to abolish war.
In fact, the collapse of the agreement in the face of Russian seizure of Crimea is a key lesson learned for states regarding nuclear weapons: if you have go them keep them; if you don’t have them you might want to get them to prevent “aggression” against your interests.
In a clear example of reverse historical logic whereby the “banning” of war by states in in the Kellogg-Briand created the preconditions for a clear marker for the return of war, the Russian seizure of Crimea has ripped apart a key agreement which was designed to reduce the risks of nuclear proliferation.
And being denigrated, such an agreement not only appears worthless but makes clear that proliferation will be viewed in a desirable manner by aspiring nuclear states.
According to the State Department history of the Kellogg-Briand pact:
The Kellogg-Briand Pact was an agreement to outlaw war signed on August 27, 1928.
Sometimes called the Pact of Paris for the city in which it was signed, the pact was one of many international efforts to prevent another World War, but it had little effect in stopping the rising militarism of the 1930s or preventing World War II…..
The first major test of the pact came just a few years later in 1931, when the Mukden Incident led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria.
Though Japan had signed the pact, the combination of the worldwide depression and a limited desire to go to war to preserve China prevented the League of Nations or the United States from taking any action to enforce it.
Further threats to the Peace Agreement also came from fellow signatories Germany, Austria and Italy.
It soon became clear that there was no way to enforce the pact or sanction those who broke it; it also never fully defined what constituted “self-defense,” so there were many ways around its terms.
In the end, the Kellogg-Briand Pact did little to prevent World War II or any of the conflicts that followed. Its legacy remains as a statement of the idealism expressed by advocates for peace in the interwar period. Frank Kellogg earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929 for his work on the Peace Pact.
Similarly, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances signed by Britain, the United States, Russia and was designed specifically to provide security assurances to Ukraine at the time when they would enter the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The agreements are not a treaty, but an agreement, which accompanied directly the Ukrainian decision to comply with NPT. The linkage was very clear at the time. And the lessons are even clearer.
Portions of the text follow:
The Presidents of Ukraine, Russian Federation and United States of America, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom signed three memorandums (UN Document A/49/765) on December 5, 1994, with the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Through this agreement, these countries (later to include China and France in individual statements) gave national security assurances to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The Joint Declaration by the Russian Federation and the United States of America of December 4, 2009 confirmed their commitment.
“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 Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine;
2. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America 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-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;
3. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 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 Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America 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 Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm, in the case of Ukraine, their commitment not to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclearweapon 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. Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America will consult in the event a situation arises that raises a question concerning these commitments.
This Memorandum will become applicable upon signature.
Signed in four copies having equal validity in the Ukrainian, English and Russian languages.
(Signed) Leonid D. KUCHMA
For the Russian Federation:
(Signed) Boris N. YELTSIN
For the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland:
(Signed) John MAJOR
For the United States of America:
(Signed) William J. CLINTON
By running tanks over the agreement, Putin has in turn called the credibility of the UK and US leadership, which signed this agreement directly into account.
Although we have not heard a lot from President Clinton, a former US Ambassador to the Ukraine has called a spade a spade.
According to Steven Pifer,
The United States must live up to its Budapest commitments, if for no other reason than this is part of the price that Washington agreed to pay in 1994 to eliminate 1,900 strategic nuclear warheads and some 220 ICBMs and bombers that were designed to attack America.
In the first instance, that means providing political support to Kiev and working with the International Monetary Fund and European Union on financial credits for Ukraine.
Second, it means consulting with Kiev and the European Union to find a negotiating path to resolve the crisis.
And third, it means coordinating with European and other countries to penalize Russia until it alters its behavior.
This is not just a question of living up to past U.S. commitments; it is a question of protecting the value of security assurances as leverage for resolving future proliferation challenges.
It is possible, for example, that U.S. security assurances of some kind to Iran might play a role in finding a permanent settlement to the Iranian nuclear issue. But security assurances in the future will have little credibility unless the United States fulfills those that it undertook in Budapest.
And certainly a number of Ukrainians had been worried that the words of the agreement WITHOUT inclusion in real economic and security alliances with Europe and the United States would leave them dangerous exposed to the Bear.
For example, in this piece by Volodymyr Vasylenko published in December 2009, the specter of the gap between agreements and capabilities was highlighted as a key threat for Ukraine. Volodymyr Vasylenko was Ukraine’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Benelux and representative of Ukraine at NATO and took part in drawing up the conceptual principles and specific provisions of the Budapest Memorandum.
As it follows from the Memorandum and the above-mentioned unilateral acts, the five nuclear states, permanent members of the UN Security Council, did not make any special commitments with respect to Ukraine – they only reaffirmed their commitment, in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter and the CSCE Final Act, to respect the independence, sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine, to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, as well as 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.
Besides, they reaffirmed their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine should it become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used, and their commitment not to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Putin had a definite answer with regard to the 1994 agreement – redraw the map.
Notably, Secretary of State Kellogg won a Nobel Prize for his efforts in forging the Pact that carries his name.
We have another Nobel Prize leader, and wonder what he is going to do to deal with the fracturing of the latest historical variant of Kelloggism.
Editor’s Note: For readers who wish to comment on the issue discussed in this article you can do so on the Second Line of Defense Forum which is currently addressing the challenges of the second nuclear age.