PEOPLE’S DEPUTY LYASHKO: UKRAINE MUST REESTABLISH ITS NUCLEAR STATUS
25 October 2016
Exactly 25 years ago Verkhovna Rada approved the statement on non-nuclear status of Ukraine. I am convinced that when we restoring our statehood it was one of our biggest mistakes due to which we are paying with the blood of Ukrainians.
Nuclear weapons and a powerful army would be the guarantees of our Independence instead of the Budapest Memorandum on which even those who signed it are ashamed to recall. That is why we shall restore our nuclear shield at any cost. There is no other real way to protect our home country, Ukraine, condemned to the neighborhood of Russia. While relying upon empty promises and statements of our partners is just to deceive ourselves!
Oleh Lyashko, People’s Deputy of Ukraine, the Radical Party Leader
Our comments on 25-th anniversary of Verkhovna Rada’s approval of “On Non-nuclear Status of Ukraine” statement
25 years ago, on 24 October 1991, the Ukrainian parliamentarians approved Verkhovna Rada’s statement “On Non-nuclear Status of Ukraine” which reaffirmed our country’s commitment announced in “Declaration on the State Sovereignty of Ukraine” of 16 July 1990 to the three non-nuclear principles: not to obtain, produce, or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons. Subsequently, the young independent state fulfilled its international obligations and renounced the nuclear arsenal inherited from the Soviet Union.
The international community strongly commended Ukraine’s role in maintaining and reinforcing the international nuclear non-proliferation regime but within the country perception of these steps was rather ambiguous. The considerable part of the Ukrainian politicians was adherent to the idea of joining a so called “nuclear club”, in other words, the club of the nuclear-weapons states, basing on the conception of nuclear weapons as a universal tool to protect Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity.
The debates over Ukraine’s renouncing the world’s third largest nuclear and missile arsenal have been continued since the decision was made, especially sharpening during national security crises threatening our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. So, it’s not surprising that now under extremely dangerous security conditions resulted from Crimea annexation and the Counter-Terrorism Operation in Donbas under way the topic of “nuclear status reinstatement” found its “second wind”. And again, on the occasion of the 25-th anniversary of Verkhovna Rada’s statement on the subject matter the Radical Party Leader Oleg Lyashko called upon the “restoration of the nuclear shield at any cost” taking into account that “Ukraine is condemned to the neighborhood of Russia”.
One has to agree with the leader of the Radical Party of Ukraine regarding assessment of effectiveness of the Budapest Memorandum which would have to guarantee the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine during the current crisis, but it is unlikely that Ukraine could receive more than those security assurances formulated in the Memorandum since at that time Ukraine was too weak to resist joint pressure from nuclear-weapons states and other powerful actors on the international scene.
Really, former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III recalled this pressure in his interview for Oral History of Independent Ukraine – 1988-1991: “Pressure that we brought to bear to get them to forgo nuclear weapons. We simply could not have a proliferation of nuclear states when the Soviet Union broke-up. That would not have been in the national interest of the United States, nor would it, frankly, have been in the interest of those states or the world.”
Belarus and Kazakhstan faced with the same situations and their leaders also signed the analogous memorandums in Budapest on the same date. A little bit earlier being in transition from apartheid to democracy South Africa was compelled to renounce its nuclear arsenal as well.
Besides, it should be noted that a considerable part of Ukrainians treated nuclear weapons as an attribute of the Soviet Union’s aggressive policy. Those anti-nuclear attitudes were additionally strengthened with the recollections on Chernobyl nuclear disaster the severe consequences of which Ukraine has suffered from up to nowadays.
The objective analysis of the participants’ testimonies and relevant documents shows that the majority of people involved in the process of Ukraine’s nuclear arsenal renouncement were well aware of the value of the security resource Ukraine was losing but there were no real possibilities to hold it.
As for current appeals of some Ukrainian politicians to restore the nuclear status of Ukraine, it should be noted that they have little to do with the actual conditions. In the vast majority cases such appeals are made by people who can hardly imagine the whole complex of problems and challenges that may arise in case of Ukraine makes decision to go nuclear. Really, according to the Western experts, if the Ukrainian leadership had decided to launch a military nuclear program then its implementation would be possible within the framework of the following three scenarios:
- Open development of the indigenous nuclear fuel cycle with the aim at some moment to withdraw from the NPT and, consequently, to denounce (at least) the agreement with the IAEA on safeguards and to refuse implementation of the Additional Protocol to the above mentioned Agreement etc., etc., as well as to cancel its membership in such international export control regimes as the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Zangger Committee, the Missile Technology Control Regime, and to begin nuclear weapons development.
- Covert implementation of the military nuclear program at least for a considerable period of time with intention then to withdraw from the NPT.
- Combinations of the above scenarios.
Aside from ethical assessment of Ukraine’s policy to implement such scenarios it is necessary to underscore that each of them will require enormous investments and resources. Basing on Western experts’ calculations regarding Iranian nuclear program, the costs for nuclear weapons development amounts, at least, to several billions of U.S. dollars which would be withdrawn not only from other sectors of the national economy and social sphere, still needed deep reforming, but also from funding the Ukrainian Army to equip it with high-technological and high-precision conventional weaponry.
In case of Ukraine’s decision to go nuclear and its withdrawal from international export control regimes, our country will not be able to buy on the international market required materials, equipment and technologies for nuclear weapons manufacture. One of the obvious consequences of such a situation will be necessity to develop and to produce them indigenously, and that will lead to considerable increase in costs for the military nuclear program and, thus, to its serious prolongation, i.e. to postponement of goal achievement.
It is apparent, that years (if not decades) are required to implement each of the above scenarios within which bearing in mind developments around Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs Ukraine likely would not receive financial and other support from the leading countries and international organizations. Conversely, it would be subject to severe international sanctions.
Finally, the decision to go nuclear will give up on Euro- and Euro-Atlantic integration plans of Ukraine. In reality, such a decision would mean a U-turn in international policy leading to nation’s marginalization and isolation threatening Ukraine existence as a state.
Ukraine will be able to reliably protect its independency, sovereignty, and territorial integrity only through cardinal reforms of the state, development of its economy, science, education system, and achievement of high living standard of its citizens. It is the above listed that will strengthen national security, Ukraine’s authority in the international arena rather than those “simple” decisions which are proposed by some of our politicians.