The Budapest Memorandum on Giving Up Nuclear Weapon

The author, Tee Wonakay, Executive Director, FOHRD

On December 5th 1994, the United States, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom, along with China and France in a separate document, signed the now infamous “Budapest Memorandum”, the document was supposed to be an assurance to Ukraine that if it acknowledged the non-nuclear proliferation treaty and gives up its nuclear materials, then those world powers will guarantee its (Ukraine’s) national security protection, and thus it wouldn’t have to worry about foreign invasion.

By Tee Wonokay/Executive Director, Foundation For Human rights Defense [email protected]

Despite the commitment from those world leaders, Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula was forcibly annexed by the Russian Federation a decade after giving up its nuclear materials.

When Russia invaded Ukraine through its proxy army, the world community looked on, and condemned, but eventually accepted the new reality that Crimea is now a part of Russia, but there were no substantive actions taken to punish the Russian Federation for its egregious violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and international laws.

As it stands today, what message does the ignoring of the Budapest memorandum and the Crimea occupation sends to Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, India, and other possessors and wannabe possessors of nuclear arms? In my view, it emboldens them and creates a reasonable sense of suspicion that if they fail to own nuclear weapons, then they could one day have the same fate as Ukraine.

Interestingly, Ukraine is not the only nation that got invaded by a global power after giving up its nuclear materials, remember that Iraq destroyed its chemical weapons stockpile and halted its biological and nuclear weapon development as required by the United Nations Security Council resolution around 1991.

And Libya voluntarily abolished its chemical and biological weapons program in 2003 after reaching an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),

But the United States and its allies invaded Iraq and Libya within a decade after giving up their nuclear materials, eventually resulting in the deaths of Sadam Hussein and Muhammad Ghaddafi.

The Libyan, Iraqi, and Ukrainian scenarios together create a somewhat uncertain future for humanity and modern civilization in terms of possible proliferation of banned weapons. More powerful nations should not be invading weaker nations, especially after those weaker nations have abolished their pursuit of chemical or biological weapons program in assurance of security protection.

But the Russians rolled tanks and dominated the streets of Crimea, ignored their neighbor’s territorial integrity, killing its citizens and destroying their national heritage, and the United States took out Iraqi and Libyan leaders after they have turned over their banned weapons.

Today the same powers that invaded Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine are negotiating with North Korea to give up its nuclear program. But according to some in the United States’ Intelligence Community, Pyongyang wants to hold on to its nuclear capabilities for deterrence purposes, coercive diplomacy, and respect on the international stage.

The North has pointed to what happened in Libya as justification for its nuclear weapons and argued that without those weapons, the United States would do to them what they did in the Balkans, Iraq, and Libya.

While we believe that the world would be a better place without nuclear weapons in the hands of dictators, it is a reasonable argument that the actions of the world’s most powerful nations in ignoring the Budapest memorandum, as well as invading Iraq and Libya, has contributed substantially to the desires of several nations to pursue nuclear programs, thus making the world a much more dangerous place.

At this point, the Foundation for Human Rights Defense can only document and tell the stories of human indignation in Ukraine and beyond, history will remember that so many innocent people, including women and children, died in Ukraine because of a clear and overwhelming Russian invasion that took place despite the signing of the Budapest memorandum. For the world to become a much safer place, the leaders of nations must act with more honesty and urgency towards nuclear non-proliferations, stakeholders must genuinely uphold their end of the bargain and beware at all times that the actions they take today will influence the direction of several negotiations and the fate of future generations, what resulted from the Budapest memorandum must never again be allowed to happen to any nation.