The Ukraine crisis reveals the danger of a promise perhaps too easily made, too easily broken, and yet a broken promise that will lead to global geopolitical destabilization.
In 1994 Ukraine held posession of Soviet nuclear weapons and both Russia and the West were anxious, in the name of non-proliferation, to get Ukraine to give up those weapons. So, to sweeten the deal, the Budapest Memorandum was signed by Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States: this Memorandum promised that the signatories, all of whom have nuclear weapons, would gurantee the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine giving up the nuclear weapons it possessed.
Fast foward 30 years and here we see the Russians using the pretext of a Russian ethnic minority in Ukraine (they are a majority only in the Crimea) to wantonly violate the territorial integrity of Ukraine. On the 27th of February, after Russian-backed militants seized the Crimean regional parliament building, a Russian puppet, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, was named “Prime Minister”. This Quisling figure immediately appealed to Russia for “help” and refused to recognize the Ukraine government, which was established by the consensus of the elected legislative body that had impeached the former President for sundry crimes.
It is argued, and it may be true, that the taking down of the former President was fomented from the West who encouraged the protests that rocked Ukraine, especially Kyiv, but this finer point regarding whether the current government of the Ukraine is “legitimate” is not as important as the more relevant issue regarding the worth of “guarantees” to nations that make concessions in the name of peace of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Claiming to control all military forces in the Crimea, meanwhile, Yatsenyuk, a rabid Russian nationalist, invited Russia to occupy the Crimea. Most Ukraine units have not obeyed this man’s orders to answer only to him and, as a result, some remain surrounded and under virtual seige by Russian forces who have moved out of their base in Sebastopol to occupy key strategic locations in the Crimea.
According to the Budapest Memorandum, the only proper response, should Ukraine respond to force with force, would be for the US and Britain to go to war with Russia, a move that is not likely regardless of the circumstances. Despite the Memorandum’s promises, the publics of Britain and the US would not support more than “tough sanctions” against Russia. The appetite for war is nil.
The problem, however, is that if the Budapest Memorandum is worth no more than the paper it was printed on, then all such “guarantees” are useless. On the other hand, if the US and Britain were able to push the Russian bear out of the Crimea (without war) by immediate and forceful sanctions aimed squarely at Russia’s fragile economy, then the strength of such promises grows greatly.
And it is precisely those kinds of promises which are being offered now in the Middle East: if the parties involved agree to concessions the West undertakes to protect their sovereignty. In the Gulf, the US are urging the Arab powers not to develop nuclear weapons, despite the fact Israel possesses them and Iran is developing them, in exchange for an American guarantee of their safety. In Israel, the Jewish State is being asked to abandon Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and to give the Paestinians a state on the basis of the same guarantee.
Anywhere you can think of where the West urges non-proliferation of nuclear weapons or peace concessions in exchange for such guarantees, on the day after this promise to Ukraine is broken the entire ball game will change.
What then would happen if the Budapest Memorandum becomes a dead letter?
Israel will be unlikely to move forward with any concessions and may even go further than that in order to create a solid buffer, at Arab expense, the West “be damned”, as they say. In the Gulf States, there would be rapid militarization and a move to obtain nuclear weapons, probably from Pakistan, in short order.
Japan may immediately “go nuclear” vis-a-vis China. South Korea may do the same, laughing off America’s nuclear umbrella as an empty promise as well.
And what of the Germans who are ostensibly forbidden from gaining nuclear arms, but who certainly have the means to assemble them, on the basis of that same promise?
Everywhere a conflict or nuclear proliferation is being held at bay by Western diplomacy and an supposed “nuclear umbrella” this broken promise will be the basis of a blunt and total rejection of that diplomacy. In a worse case scenario (that is totally within the realm of possibilities) the West might soon wake up to find a world at war, armed heavily, and totally disdainful of its threats or its promises.
The implications for Ukraine are more severe. What’s left of that state will seek its own nuclear umbrella and an eventual day of reckoning with Moscow.
In Europe, many Eastern Europen nations, possibly with German connivance, will disregard any and all promises by the US and Britain to provide a nuclear umbrella: they will likely also seek nuclear arms to prevent Russia from moving back in. Nations like Poland and the Baltics, which border Russian territory, will definitely see their vulnerability and move toward the German orbit as the only alternative to Russian dominance.
As for the global warming crowd who have blocked European fracking, despite many vast new natural gas deposits being developed, look for an immediate turn-about as Europe, dependent on Russian natural gas, most of which is piped through Ukraine, realizes that their very geopolitical independence demand immediate liberations from Russian energy supplies.
Not honoring the Budapest Memorandum, after all it is not a formal treaty, and allowing Russia to seize parts of Ukraine territory will have far reaching implications for the world and will ultimately lead to destablization and a rapid arms race that no “diplomacy” from Washington or London will be able to slow down, much less stop.
The Ukraine knows all about the 1994 promise: