Nuclear weapons and Ukraine

Nuclear weapons and Ukraine

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the newly independent Ukraine had on its territory what was the third largest strategic nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. It was larger than that of Britain, France, and China combined. On June 1, 1996 Ukraine became a non-nuclear nation when it sent last of its 1,900 strategic nuclear warheads to Russia for dismantling.[1] The first shipment of nuclear weapons from Ukraine to Russia (by train) was in March 1994.[2]



Ukraine had 220 strategic weapon carriers on its territory, including 130 RS-18 (SS- 19), 46 sophisticated RS-22 missiles, and 44 strategic bombers carrying 1,068 long-range cruise missiles. In November 1993, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a resolution On the Ratification of the Treaty Between the USSR and USA On the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Weapons of June 7, 1991 and the Protocol to the Treaty of May 23, 1992. The next stage was the signing on January 14, 1994 of the Trilateral Statement by the Presidents of Ukraine, Russia, and the United States under which Ukraine was to destroy all nuclear weapons on its territory, including strategic offensive weapons.

Ukraine, Washington and Moscow reached an agreement in January that allowed for the dismantling of Ukraine's 176 Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBMs) ahead of Kiev's formal ratification of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). France and China provided unilateral security assurances in the form of diplomatic notes. The missiles—130 SS-19's and 46 SS-24's—carried about 1,800 nuclear warheads altogether.

Before voting on accession, Ukraine demanded from Russia, the USA, France and the United Kingdom a written statement that these powers undertook to extend the security guarantees to Ukraine. Instead security assurances to Ukraine (Ukraine published the documents as guarantees given to Ukraine[3]) where given on 5 December 1994 at a formal ceremony in Budapest (known as the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances[4]), may be summarized as follows: Russia, the UK and the USA undertake to respect Ukraine's borders in accordance with the principles of the 1975 CSCE Final Act, to abstain from the use or threat of force against Ukraine, to support Ukraine where an attempt is made to place pressure on it by economic coercion, and to bring any incident of aggression by a nuclear power before the UN Security Council.

Ukraine was scheduled to submit its instruments of accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear state and formally enter into START at the OSCE summit in Budapest in December 1994. The Rada resolution on accession to the NPT, however, was ambiguous as to whether Ukraine was acceding as a nuclear or non-nuclear state, which was unacceptable to the Russians. The compromise reached after intense negotiations was to attach a diplomatic note from the Ukrainian president to the Rada resolution stipulating that Ukraine was acceding as a non-nuclear state.

The Trilateral Statement: Signed in Moscow, 14 January 1994 by the presidents of the United States, Russia, and Ukraine: Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, and Leonid Kravchuk. Details the procedures to transfer Ukrainian nuclear warheads to Russia and associated compensation and security assurances. Sets out simultaneous actions to transfer SS-19 and SS-24 warheads from Ukraine to Russia for dismantling and to provide compensation to Ukraine in the form of fuel assemblies for nuclear power stations. It also provides economic support and technical aid from the United States to assist with dismantling the strategic nuclear arms, as well as security assurances to Ukraine from both the United States and Russia, once START I enters into force and Ukraine becomes a non-nuclear weapon state party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Between March 1994 and June 1996, about 2,000 nuclear munitions of strategic weapon systems were removed from Ukraine to Russia for disassembly. In all, considering tactical weapons, about 5,000 nuclear munitions were moved to Russia in almost 100 trains.

In a joint statement on December 4, 2009 the presidents of the United States and Russia, Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, confirmed the assurances of security to Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus given on the heels of these countries' consent in 1994 to give up their nuclear weapons.[5]

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