All countries have the right to defend themselves, and it is their duty to their citizens to do so.
Ukraine also has the right to expect other countries to keep their commitments to Ukraine in support of this right.
“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
And the 1991 Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine stated in part that Ukraine “…Proceeding from the right of a nation to self-determination in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other international legal documents… declares …” independence.
Then a December 1, 1991, referendum of the people of Ukraine was set to determine the validity of the Declaration of Independence.
Ukraine was the only republic of the Soviet Union to condition its independence on a vote of the people. Over 80% of the eligible voters in Ukraine voted and a majority of 93% voted for independence. This result included majorities voting for independence in every Oblast in Ukraine, including Crimea where, over the decades of Soviet rule thousands-upon-thousands of native citizens, especially Crimean Tatars, were relocated to elsewhere in the Soviet Union and citizens of Russia were moved into and settled on the peninsula as part of the Kremlin’s Russification program. But even with that transplanted population Crimea voted for independence.
The day after the referendum Poland and Canada were the first nations to recognize Ukraine as an independent and sovereign nation. By December 25, 1991, the United States was the 26th nation to do so and by July 1992 over 80 nations had officially recognized Ukraine.
Therefore Ukraine, as a sovereign nation and member of the United Nations has the undeniable right to self-defense.
After independence Ukraine possessed the world’s third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons. And, after extensive negotiations Ukraine agreed to turn over those weapons to Russia and to accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. But, the extensive negotiations involved were directly related to Ukraine’s concerns over the Kremlin’s historic and unrelenting desire to occupy and dominate Ukraine. Ukraine was all too familiar with Zbigniew Brzeziński’s observation that, “It cannot be stressed enough that without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.”
Therefore, at the end of the negotiations and before Ukraine would turn over its nuclear arsenal the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States signed the Budapest Memorandum assuring Ukraine they would:
- respect Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty and existing borders
- refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine
- refrain from using economic pressure in order to influence Ukraine’s politics
- seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine, “if … Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used”
- refrain from the use of nuclear arms against Ukraine, and
- consult with one another if questions arise regarding these commitments.
So, what has happened? Giving its solemn word meant nothing to the Kremlin. Russia has invaded, occupied and claimed as its own Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula – and in establishing a huge Russian military presence in Crimea has included nuclear weapons. Furthermore, Russia has not only, together with some local participants, invaded Ukraine’s Donbas region but has and is using every other kind of pressure against Ukraine that is forbidden by the Budapest Memorandum.
Former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry (who participated directly in the negotiations leading to the Budapest Memorandum) and George P. Schultz, former Secretary of State, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal about the situation.
Reprinted from a WSJ op-ed:
What is happening? Russia has completely ignored the Budapest Memorandums on Security Assurances of 1994 in which, as a signatory, it agreed not to violate any Ukrainian territory. Russia has taken Crimea and is actively stirring trouble in the eastern part of that country, a blatant violation of solemn vows. One of us, Mr. Perry, participated in the negotiations leading to the Budapest Memorandum, and can testify to the seriousness of that broken promise. He can also testify that both the Russian and American negotiators understood that this Memorandum was critical to Ukraine’s decision to give up its almost 2,000 nuclear weapons.
If Russia had not agreed to the Budapest Memorandum, it is likely that Ukraine would not have surrendered its nuclear weapons.
Yes, absolutely, Ukraine has the right to defend itself. And, further based upon solemn promises made to Ukraine, it has the right to expect the United States and the United Kingdom to stand up seriously and back and assist Ukraine in its self-defense.