In 1994, Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons on a pledge the United States, Great Britain and Russia would provide security assurances to the Ukrainian people.
The Budapest Memorandum that year recited the 1,800 nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory, including short-range tactical weapons and air-launched cruise missiles, would be eliminated.
In exchange, the U.S., U.K. and Russia “reaffirm(ed) their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”
They also pledged to “refrain from economic coercion” against Ukraine and to “seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine” in the event of an “act of aggression” against the country. Ukraine returned all of the nuclear weapons to Russia by 1996.
Vladimir Putin made the Budapest Memorandum moot with his first invasion of Ukraine in 2014. But this betrayal of Ukraine is well-remembered in Kyiv. Ukraine’s heroic President Volodymyr Zelensky noted it bitterly in a defiant speech accusing his Western counterparts of appeasement.
“Has our world completely forgotten the mistakes of the 20th century?” he asserted.
Ukraine was promised eventual membership in NATO 14 years ago, but nothing has happened as a result of Putin’s railings against the United States and his fervent opposition to Ukraine’s NATO membership.
It was President Obama who dithered – issued warnings to Putin that he dismissed – and refused to provide the Ukrainian military with arms to defend themselves in 2014.
Obama would not arm the Ukrainians. U.S. aid was limited to providing blankets and clothing. He refused to sell lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine – even after Putin seized Crimea. Sen. John McCain led an unsuccessful effort by a bipartisan coalition in Congress to provide weapons to the embattled nation.
“They are not asking for a single boot on the ground,” McCain pleaded.
Obama left Ukraine defenseless. It wasn’t until Donald Trump became president that Ukrainians were provided any serious defensive weaponry.
The U.S. should have been arming the Ukrainians not just out of our national interest, but also because we are the ones who disarmed Ukraine with our security guarantee.
The Biden administration now tells Putin everything America won’t do in Ukraine. We unilaterally disarmed by signaling in advance that no American forces would be sent to Ukraine. We volunteered not to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent Russian air dominance.
Republicans and Democrats used to warn enemies “nothing’s off the table.” A policy of deliberate ambiguity should have been followed as our possible response to Russian bombing of cities with indiscriminate artillery and cluster bombs – or worse.
The Biden administration spurned an offer by the Polish government to transfer all its 28 MiG-29 fighter planes to the U.S. and handed over to Ukrainian pilots fighting the Russian invasion. That was too risky in Biden’s view, notwithstanding strong bipartisan congressional support for the transfer.
Biden lags behind on Ukraine. His initial economic sanctions lacked punch. Excluded was a ban on imported Russian oil.
The U.S. and allies buy $700 million worth of oil each day from Russia. Biden’s reluctance to act was political calculation. The ban will drive up the cost of gas and increase the chances of a Democratic November wipeout.
For nearly a week after introduction of the Ban Russian Imports Act by 18 bipartisan senators, Biden wavered. He belatedly barred imported oil and other energy sources from Russia, while still re-affirming his green energy agenda that includes an assault on the U.S. oil and gas industry.
What’s needed now is energy independence fueled by American producers.
While Biden vacillates, Zelensky has inspired the world with his leadership and bravery. “I need ammunition not a ride,” he implores.
The U.S. and Europe must find ways to come to the defense of the courageous, freedom-loving Ukrainian people.
E-mail Jim Hartman at firstname.lastname@example.org.