Pro-Ukrainians Need To Know: What Does the Budapest Memorandum Actually Mean? – Part I

Dear Readers:

Anybody who has been following the Ukraine vs Russia Propaganda War in recent years, especially in the blogosphere, knows that the pro-Ukrainian side often throws out the term:  “Budapest Memorandum”.  As if that is the final word and closes all debate.

Yury Kostenko

But not so fast, my feathered friends!  This piece from VZGLIAD delves into the history of this “internet debating point” and what it actually means.  The authors of the piece are Andrei Rezchikov and Yury Zainashev.  They start their lede by quoting a Ukrainian former government official named Yury Kostenko.  Kostenko used to head the Atomic Safety Ministry of Ukraine in a former government.  A couple of days ago, in an interview with the Ukrainian news site Unian, and subsequently picked up by “Radio Svoboda”, Kostenko pointed out that the Budapest Memorandum cannot be used as a debating point by the pro-Ukrainian side.  In the sense that they want to use it.  Namely to “prove” that Moscow had no right to “annex” Crimea.

The pro-Ukrainian debating point in a nutshell is this:  When the Soviet Union split up, the newly independent nation of Ukraine gave up its nukes in return for international guarantees that its existing borders (including the peninsula of Crimea) were sacrosanct and could not be altered.  Therefore, when Moscow annexed Crimea, it violated international laws and treaties.

Pro-Ukrainians:  Please cross that talking point right off your list of talking points!

So, let’s get started working through this piece.  It is fairly long, so will probably be a 2-parter.  But please bear with me.  It is worth it to achieve any level of clarity in this dispute, even if you are pro-Ukie yourself and don’t agree with Kostenko’s conclusions.

What Is The Budapest Memorandum?

“The Budapest Memorandum is not a security guarantee, but rather assurances of  guarantees (заверения в гарантиях).”  Now to the untutored ear, that sounds like exactly the same thing, no?  Apparently not.  Please enlighten us, Mr. Kostenko:

When Ukraine gave up its nukes, the Russian bear got them all!

“The Peoples Deputies of the Ukraine spoke about precisely this matter during the time of the ratification of the agreement (договор) about the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.  Right there in the Session Hall of the Parliament, in which the Peoples Deputies, in the presence of the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs — in those days it was Gennady Udovenko — stressed the point that, until such time as Ukraine should receive international legal guarantees of our security and territorial integrity, then it was not a good idea to exchange signatures [on this document].”

Is Kostenko saying that the Ukry got rolled by the Western allies?   That they were bamboozled into signing something without reading the fine print?  (Well, don’t feel bad, Ukies, the Russians got conned pretty badly too, around the same time and by these same people — but this isn’t the right context to get into all of those sore points.)

All of this started exactly 25 years ago, October of 1991.  The nation of Ukraine publicly declared itself to be a non-atomic country and had its arsenal carted away.  To Russia.  Three years later, in 1994, a quartet of four nations (Ukraine, Russia, the U.S. and Great Britain) signed the famous Budapest Memorandum.  Let’s abbreviate it as BM.  The BM contained certain “guarantees” of Ukrainian sovereignty and security.

2014: Crimeans Rejoice.

Fast forward to 16 March 2014.  A referendum is held in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.  By a landslide (96%) the Prodigal Peninsula votes to return to Mother Russia.  Five days later the Agreement is ratified under which Crimea sails away from Ukraine and docks in Russia.  And ever since that day the Ukrainians and their Westie sponsors continue to gripe about “illegal annexation”.  With the BM always in the forefront, as their key debating and propaganda point.

For example, just last month Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko spoke from the tribune of the United Nations, emoting with Oscar-winning pathos about how “the world did not pass the test posed by the Budapest Memorandum” and how all those guarantees offered to Ukraine only amounted, in the end [pause to glare self-righteously], to a “sheet of paper”.

Which, apparently, is all that the famous document ever was, according to Yury Kostenko.

[to be continued]

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