Should Great Britain join the Russian Federation

American policy towards Russia, the sovereignty of Ukraine and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: a triangular relationship with far-reaching consequences

The Memorandum on Security Commitments for Ukraine, signed at the CSCE Summit in Budapest in December 1994, created a link between the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Ukrainian political sovereignty and territorial integrity. Kiev had only agreed to dismantle its then third largest nuclear arsenal in the world after the United States, Great Britain and Russia, as the depositary states of the NPT, in the Budapest Memorandum and France and China in separate government declarations of Ukraine their respect for their independence and had insured borders. This is one of the reasons why possible plans by the Trump administration to restart relations with the Kremlin should not include either an explicit or implicit softening of the US position on Russia's continued fight against the Ukrainian state.

The Memorandum on Security Assurances for Ukraine, signed at the December 1994 CSCE summit in Budapest, created a link between the 1968 Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation (NPT) and Ukrainian political sovereignty as well as territorial integrity. Kyiv only agreed to dismantle the world's then third largest atomic weapons arsenal after the United States, United Kingdom and Russian Federation, as the NPT's depositary states, in the Budapest Memorandum, and France as well as China in separate governmental declarations assured Ukraine of their respect for her independence and borders. That is one of the reasons why the new Trump administration's possible plans for a reset with the Kremlin should include neither an explicit nor an implicit softening of Washington's stance on Russia's ongoing assault against the Ukrainian state.

1 Introduction

Will President Donald Trump's new foreign policy team revise US stance on Russia and Ukraine? If the new administration in Washington were to attempt to realign American policy on Eastern Europe, this could have serious repercussions on the sustainability of the current international regime to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine's territorial integrity was closely linked to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - one of the most far-reaching arms control agreements ever signed and signed by most of the world's countries.

It is true that there are now a plethora of signals from Washington that suggest that the United States will at least not change its rhetoric towards Russia. For example, the newly appointed US Ambassador Nikki Haley to the United Nations said on February 2, 2017 at a meeting of the UN Security Council requested by Ukraine (as a result of the renewed escalation of the fighting in the Donets Basin): “The United States stands on the side of the Ukrainian people who have been suffering from Russian occupation and military intervention for almost three years now. "[1] She also assured the international community that the sanctions imposed by the United States on Russia after the annexation of Crimea will remain in force until the peninsula is returned to Ukraine. Other representatives of the Trump administration and Republican Party have similarly expressed support for Ukraine and criticism of Russia. Such statements are a relief for all those who feared after Trump's victory that the desire of the new president and some of his advisors to build a partnership with Russia could result in the new US administration tacitly adopting Russia's Ukraine policy could accept.

However, it remains unclear to what extent Ambassador Haley actually reflects the preferences of the Trump administration in the statements quoted or whether she or the State Department initially simply followed the line of her predecessor Samantha Power. Even with similar statements by other US official representatives, the question arises whether they will ultimately be representative of the long-term strategy of the new Washington team. Trump's future Russia policy thus remains shaped by doubts, fueled by revelations about promises made by the resigning first National Security Advisor to the new President, Michael Flynn, to Russia in the run-up to the elections. Should the new US administration, as Trump announced several times during the election campaign, actually initiate rapprochement between the USA and Russia, it would be difficult for Washington to fully maintain the current US sanctions against Moscow, or in the event of further sanctions of Russian escalations in Ukraine. If the current Western consensus with regard to Russia were to wane as a result, Ukraine might have to come to terms with its territorial losses in the long run. The Kremlin would be rewarded for the tenacity with which it pursued its policy of territorial expansion. This would have far-reaching consequences not only for the political balance of power, mood and stability in Eastern Europe, but also for the global security order.

2 Washington and Moscow after the Ukraine crisis

Moscow's unexpected annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in March 2014 dealt a severe blow to US-Russia relations. The relationship deteriorated further when the Kremlin began to stir up an armed conflict in the Donets Basin, intervened militarily in Syria on the side of the regime of Bashar al-Assad and finally interfered in the US presidential elections. The resulting tensions between the two largest nuclear powers in the world are cause for great concern, and relaxation would only be welcome. Trump blamed his predecessor's foreign policy decisions for the tensions and expressed his desire to find a new way of working with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some key figures in Trump's newly appointed cabinet also appear to have plans for such rapprochement. A far-reaching normalization of relations with Russia would, however, possibly require Washington to turn a blind eye to the illegal Russian territorial changes that Putin has continued or made in the post-Soviet space since he came to power in 2000. In the worst case scenario, it could mean that the US government would have to ignore, downplay and / or tolerate the ongoing destabilization of Ukraine through a variety of military and non-military measures by the Kremlin.

In particular, a real restart of relations between Russia and the US would imply that at least some of the sanctions that the US has imposed on Russia on account of Putin's violations of international law since 2014 will be lifted or not or not sufficiently expanded in the event of further provocations by Moscow in Ukraine. President Trump, it is suspected, may view the territorial integrity of Ukraine as an inadequately important obstacle to improving relations with Putin: “Is Ukraine really worth such a commitment from the West?” - This is probably what many politicians, diplomats and advisors think on both sides of the Atlantic. If President Trump and his foreign policy advisers, such as Henry Kissinger, actually consider a substantial rapprochement with Russia, this could even - as at times indicated - result in a new division of spheres of influence à la Yalta.

In this case, it must be remembered that after the collapse of the USSR, the United States committed itself to consistently respecting and actively supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. More than twenty years ago, Washington made clear written security commitments to Kiev in connection with its renunciation of the nuclear weapons that the young Ukrainian state had inherited from the Soviet Union. The US promises of the time are more than trivial platitudes and are now an integral part of the international regime for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

3 Ukraine's Nuclear Weapons Heritage and the Budapest Memorandum

At the Budapest Summit of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (now: OSCE) in 1994, the USA, Great Britain, Russia and Ukraine signed a non-proliferation treaty in connection with Ukraine's accession Memorandum of Security Commitments.[2] In the Budapest Memorandum, as the document has been called since then, the three depositary states of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty pledged to respect the political independence and existing borders of Ukraine and to refrain from using military force and from exerting political and economic pressure against them.[3] China and France, the other two official nuclear powers recognized in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, made similar statements in separate governmental statements.[4]

The Budapest Memorandum is undoubtedly an imperfect document under international law. It was the result of negotiations between parties with different national interests and positions of international power. The document is also only a diplomatic declaration of intent in which political commitments are made in writing. The memorandum is not a binding international and ratified treaty - a fact that dozens of Russian and pro-Russian commentators have referred to time and again since 2014. The Budapest Memorandum also does not contain any provisions on sanctions in the event of a violation. The four parties to the memorandum merely declare that they want to consult with each other if a situation arises that violates the declared obligations of the signatory states with regard to the sovereignty, integrity and security of Ukraine. However, the history of the memorandum, the course of the nuclear disarmament in post-Soviet Ukraine and the signatures of the three depository states of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1994 indicate that there is more to the Budapest Memorandum than can be deduced from its mere wording.[5]

The memorandum was the crucial part of a broader agreement between the great powers and Kiev, according to which Ukraine agreed to completely forego what was then the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world and its nuclear weapons production capacity in return for political, economic and technical assistance from the West. When Ukraine emerged as an independent state in 1991, it inherited a large number of nuclear weapons, including 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 44 strategic bombers, which were armed with a total of around 2,000 nuclear warheads, as well as over 2,600 tactical nuclear weapons. All of this corresponded All in all about 15 percent of the former Soviet nuclear arsenal.[6] In addition, Ukraine had a considerable military-industrial infrastructure, including nuclear research reactors, the world's largest factory for ICBMs, facilities for the production of target acquisition and fire control systems, and uranium mines. Although operational control of Ukrainian strategic weapons systems remained in Moscow, Ukraine had a complete “starter package” to transform it into a full-fledged nuclear weapons state, as well as sufficient technological and scientific potential to gain control of a significant part of its nuclear weapons if necessary and to make at least some of these warheads and delivery systems fully operational.[7]

Despite (or perhaps precisely because) Ukraine was so close to the status of a full-fledged nuclear power, after the collapse of the USSR, it initially wanted to forego all weapons of mass destruction on its territory and become a neutral state.[8] Five years before gaining independence, the then Soviet republic experienced the Chernobyl nuclear disaster - an experience that was a major reason why Ukrainians initially showed little interest in their inherited Soviet nuclear arsenal. The Ukrainian government was therefore initially ready to dispose of its thousands of nuclear warheads, grenades and mines unconditionally and as quickly as possible. Furthermore, the Soviet nuclear weapons, with their command and control systems centralized in Moscow, were seen as a bond that tied Ukraine to Russia, while Kiev wanted to consolidate its independence from the Kremlin.

In the months following the official dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, however, the Ukrainian government began to take a more nuanced view of its nuclear legacy in the light of initial experiences with the new Russian state.[9] Despite the official and amicable separation of the two countries, the military establishment of the new Russian Federation hindered the establishment of independent Ukrainian armed forces - a central sovereign competence of a sovereign state. The Ukrainian leadership considered its own armed forces to be essential in order to secure the newly won independence. The Russian Defense Ministry, on the other hand, endeavored to maintain joint military and strategic institutions in the post-Soviet space.

At the same time, Russian politicians began to file territorial claims that evidently deviated from the trilateral Belove Agreement ratified in December 1991 to dissolve the USSR. In it Moscow recognized the sovereignty of Ukraine and its borders without restrictions. Nevertheless, in May 1992, the Russian parliament passed a resolution - in manifest contradiction to its ratification of the Belove Agreement only a few months earlier - that annulled the Soviet law that had ordered the transfer of Crimea from the Russian Soviet Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1954.[10] In July 1993, the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation also officially recognized the city of Sevastopol in Crimea, where a large Russian military base and an important naval base are located, as its own territory.[11] At this time Moscow also supported separatist movements in the Georgian regions and self-appointed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as in the Transnistria region, which is part of the Republic of Moldova, militarily, economically and politically.

The geopolitical circumstances of the incipient denuclearization of Ukraine changed as a result of these and other developments. Kiev's bilateral relations with Moscow and his confidence in the future foreign policy of the young Russian Federation deteriorated noticeably. This prompted leading Ukrainian politicians, diplomats and experts to reconsider their initial readiness for unconditional nuclear disarmament. The various unexpected actions and declarations of the newly formed post-Soviet Russian state raised concerns among foreign policy makers in Kiev that Moscow could become a military threat to Ukraine in the future.

It is true that the President and the Parliament of Russia recognized the borders of Ukraine first in the Belowesher Agreement of 1991 and subsequently several times officially through various treaty signings and ratifications. Evidently - as already indicated at the time - influential circles of the Russian establishment had never fully accepted the agreement reached in December 1991 to dissolve the USSR. Even if this did not mean that Ukraine now refused to nuclear disarmament, from then on Kiev proceeded more cautiously and now set conditions. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry demanded support from the Western powers in the event that Russia should exert military, political and / or economic pressure on Ukraine in the future.

In response to these demands, a series of difficult negotiations began between the US and Ukraine in mid-1992 on future security guarantees for Kiev. Originally, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry sought a multilateral agreement between Ukraine and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and drew up a draft treaty for this. This agreement would have been legally binding had it guaranteed Ukraine's borders and provided specific sanctions in the event of its disregard.[12] Even this draft treaty and the Kiev policy at the time did not, however, amount to a security alliance between Ukraine and the West. Rather, Ukraine wanted to remain neutral - an approach that, in some respects, was similar to behavior e.g. B. resembled Austria in the 1950s.

However, neither the outgoing Bush senior nor the new Clinton administration were ready to give the young Ukrainian state binding guarantees under international law. Rather, at the beginning of the 1990s, large parts of the political and intellectual establishment in the USA and the West as a whole saw the decisive cornerstone of regional stability in the post-Soviet space in a gradually reforming and increasingly democratic Russia. They therefore did not want to commit themselves to a treaty that could be interpreted as anti-Russian. The West's binding commitments to Ukraine might have sparked hostile reactions in Moscow, which viewed Ukraine and its nuclear weapons problem as a kind of intra-Slav family affair. It may also have played a role that a full-fledged multilateral agreement would have had to go through a lengthy ratification process in the parliaments of all signatory states to the agreement. This would probably have meant that the completion of Ukraine's nuclear disarmament would be further delayed.

Therefore, the United States convinced Ukraine that the maximum that Kiev can expect from the White House is a high-level commitment from Washington to uphold Ukraine's political sovereignty and territorial integrity. In addition, they wanted to persuade Russia to give such an assurance. In addition, Washington promised extensive financial and technical assistance for the implementation of the costly nuclear disarmament process as well as replacement for the fissile material contained in the Ukrainian warheads, if this could have been used for peaceful purposes. These commitments were formally confirmed in a Trilateral Declaration signed in Moscow on January 14, 1994 by the Presidents of Ukraine, the USA and Russia.[13]

Although Washington and Moscow made joint security pledges to Kiev in this document, it was clear to all involved that Ukraine feared Russian territorial revisionism and therefore sought US protection. No specific sanctions were agreed in the event of a breach of the commitments made by the two nuclear superpowers in the Trilateral Declaration. Nonetheless, the commitments made therein meant that Washington would view a violation of Ukraine's political sovereignty and territorial integrity as an act that prejudices US national interests. This generated confidence in Kiev that the United States would take its political promises seriously.

4 The territorial integrity of Ukraine and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

However, even after the US, Russian Federation and Ukraine signed the Trilateral Declaration in January 1994, the Kiev negotiators understood that the assurances that Washington and Moscow had made in this document fell far short of a full guarantee of security for their country. For this reason, the Ukrainian government finally requested and received another, in some respects redundant security commitment in an additional, more comprehensive international document.This second declaration has now been demonstratively linked to Kiev's accession to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) - one of the most important multilateral agreements in the world. In December 1994, the Budapest Memorandum created a clear link between the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.

This connection found symbolic expression in an in and of itself unnecessary departure from the earlier trilateral format in the negotiations and agreements on the fate of the Ukrainian nuclear arsenal: Great Britain signed as the third official depositary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, alongside the USA and Russia, in December 1994 as well the security commitments made to Ukraine in the Trilateral Declaration of January of the same year as part of the Budapest Memorandum. In addition, the other two of the five nuclear weapon states recognized in the NPT, China and France, were included in the Budapest process through separate official government declarations on respect for the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine. Ultimately, Kazakhstan and Belarus - as two other post-Soviet states that also agreed to forego their (much smaller) nuclear arsenals that they had inherited from the USSR - received security commitments similar to those of Ukraine.

The provisions in the Budapest Memorandum hardly differed from the commitments made by the United States and Russia in the Trilateral Declaration of January 1994. In addition to pledging to respect Ukraine's borders and, in accordance with the UN Charter and the OSCE Helsinki Final Act, to refrain from using or threatening military force, the memorandum contained the general negative and positive nuclear assurances which the nuclear-armed states of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty usually grant the non-nuclear-armed states that have acceded to the treaty. What was decisive about the Budapest Memorandum, however, was that it gave a new quality to the security pledges of the three great powers to Ukraine: They thus became an integral part of the regime to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The denuclearization of Ukraine came at a critical moment for the future of the non-proliferation regime, which was to be extended indefinitely at the 1995 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference.[14] In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, the world was shaken by the unveiling of the nuclear program in Iraq, which signed the NPT but managed to mislead inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In 1993, North Korea, a non-cooperating member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, threatened to withdraw from it. Libya and Iran were also suspected of engaging in secret nuclear programs that violate the NPT. Finally, Pakistan and India were in the process of joining Israel as nuclear powers outside the NPT regime. Ukraine's renunciation of its nuclear weapons in 1994 therefore represented an impressive vote of confidence in the normative foundations and political potency of the non-proliferation regime. For almost 20 years, the Ukrainian decision, together with the termination of the nuclear programs of Belarus, Kazakhstan and South Africa, seemed to demonstrate to the world that a nuclear “roll backwards” is possible and advantageous for the states concerned.

For Ukraine, the significance of the 1994 memorandum was less that it had received security commitments as such. The Budapest document merely repeated the statements of the Trilateral Declaration of the same year and is not an agreement that is binding under international law. Rather, the significance of the memorandum consisted and continues to be that it linked the fulfillment of the political obligations set out in it with Ukraine's renunciation of nuclear weapons and its accession to the NPT, thus making it a component of the international non-proliferation regime . Following this logic, the Ukrainian instrument of ratification of the NPT announced in 1994 that any threat to the territorial integrity of Ukraine and revision of its borders by a nuclear-armed state would be regarded as “extraordinary events that represent a threat to the highest interests ”Of Ukraine would.[15] This clause has been taken verbatim from Article 10 of the NPT, which regulates the possibility of legitimate withdrawal from the contract. Ukraine thus retained a legal title to acquire new nuclear weapons if necessary.

5 The Consequences of Russian Aggression against Ukraine

Moscow's annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and the ongoing covered Russian intervention in the Donets Basin are “extraordinary events that pose a threat to the highest interests” of Ukraine. It was therefore not surprising that this led to a motion in the Ukrainian parliament in 2014 calling for Ukraine to leave the NPT.[16] It also comes as no surprise that public support for Ukraine's nuclear rearmament soared to 43 percent in 2014, with support even higher among the younger generation.[17]

However, the parliamentary motion for nuclear rearmament did not get a majority. Although the Ukrainians are becoming more and more aware that the way they did their nuclear disarmament was a grave mistake in the mid-1990s, the likelihood, at least so far, that Kiev will build or acquire new nuclear weapons is slim.[18] This is related to the fact that a hypothetical possible nuclear rearmament of Ukraine would mean high economic and political costs for the country. Ukraine would have to invest large sums of money in its own production of nuclear weapons, which it does not have. It would have to develop a complete nuclear fuel cycle and the sophisticated delivery and control systems necessary for a credible nuclear deterrent.

Moreover, such efforts would meet bitter opposition not only in Russia but also in those Western countries from which Ukraine now receives the bulk of its economic and political support. Should this aid dry up, the government of Ukraine would be in serious trouble. Mutatis mutandis Against this background, however, the reasons for Ukraine not to rearmament would also diminish and the desire for a nuclear deterrent (even if it was by means of a “dirty bomb”) would increase if the Ukrainians found the current Western support for their political sovereignty and territorial integrity to be inadequate consider. This would apply in particular to the case of further military offensives by Moscow - e. For example, a possible forcible establishment of a Russian land corridor between the Donets Basin and the Crimea - and an inadequate reaction by the West to such attacks.

However, the long-term aspect of Russia's territorial gains in Ukraine most worrying for the global community and the future of mankind has less to do with the conflict between Moscow and Kiev itself or a possible Ukrainian nuclear rearmament. Rather, the Kremlin's blatant and bold violation of the Budapest Memorandum undermines the normative, political, and psychological foundations of the entire international nuclear non-proliferation regime.[19] With every month that the Russian occupation of Crimea and covert intervention in eastern Ukraine continues, the trust foundation of the global NPT deal is being deeply undermined.

The creeping de-legitimization of the current mechanism for preventing nuclear proliferation also occurs at a time when this regime is already under pressure. The growing dissatisfaction with the current nuclear weapons lock-up regime has to do with the openly discriminatory character of the NPT: According to the treaty, only five states that are also permanent members of the UN Security Council are authorized to possess nuclear weapons under international law. All other signatory states of the NPT, on the other hand, are obliged to renounce nuclear weapons completely and to even have the right to prepare for their development. The critical point of the global agreement in the NPT between the nuclear weapon owners USA, Great Britain, Russia, France and China on the one hand and the non-nuclear weapon states on the other hand is the recognition of the special responsibility of the former . The exceptional privileges of the nuclear-weapon states within the NPT impose on them the duty not to abuse them for their own benefit and, in particular, not to abuse them against non-nuclear-weapon states. Otherwise the logic of the entire regime of nuclear non-proliferation disappears, and in particular the legitimacy of the exemptions contained therein for the P5.[20]

The NPT agreement is also based on the assumption that nuclear weapon owners will gradually reduce their stocks of warheads of their own accord. In this context, the five official NPT nuclear-weapon states were already criticized by a growing number of non-nuclear-weapon states before 2014 for insufficient efforts to comply with their nuclear disarmament obligations under the agreement. A movement has emerged from this frustration in the past few years which advocates the fundamentally outlawing and forbidding the possession of nuclear weapons under international law - and thus delegitimizing nuclear weapon possession in general.

The fact that Russia, a recognized nuclear weapons and depository state of the NPT, is now using military force against Ukraine, a non-nuclear weapons and NPT signatory state, while at the same time threatening western states with an atomic club, bodes little good for the future effectiveness of the world non-proliferation regimes. Ukraine's decision to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty not only resulted in Kiev renouncing its intention and right to develop nuclear weapons. It also meant the transfer of the third largest arsenal of nuclear warheads in the world from Ukrainian territory to Russia of all places.

After all, Ukraine already suspected the irredentist threat from Russia in the early 1990s and therefore did not unconditionally join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It only did so after receiving written assurances not only from Russia that they would respect their sovereignty, but also from the other four official NPT nuclear weapon states that they would not stand idly by if Moscow did not meet its obligations to Ukraine. Should the United States now weaken these commitments by revising its critical stance towards Moscow, easing the sanctions against Russia or making other concessions towards Russia, this would be fatal against the background of the Trilateral Declaration and in particular the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. Such behavior would mean - after the demonstrative Russian aggression since 2014 - the second explicit violation of a great power against the spirit and purpose of the non-proliferation regime.

6 Why the United States Must Support the NPT

Of course, the extent and appropriateness of the Western reactions to Russia's aggression against Ukraine so far are judged controversially. It can be argued, however, that US actions so far have largely been in line with what one might expect from a NPT depositary state, and largely followed the political assurances Washington made to Kiev in 1994. The Obama administration called consultations as provided for in the Budapest Memorandum. In contrast to the nuclear-weapon state China, which ostentatiously abstained from the vote in the UN General Assembly in March 2014, in which the Russian annexation of Crimea was condemned, the United States has consistently, unequivocally and repeatedly condemned Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Washington imposed sanctions on Russia and made economic, technical, training and military aid available to Ukraine - albeit on a much more modest scale than Kiev would like, and so far only with non-lethal weapons.

It would be a grave geopolitical mistake if the Trump administration were to sacrifice the current US course of a questionable détente with Putin for the sake of Putin. The new president and his advisors should not only recognize the worrying consequences of a policy of appeasing Moscow for the non-proliferation regime. A weakening of the already half-hearted support of the West for Ukraine could encourage the Kremlin to put even more pressure on Kiev. New concessions to Russia would ignore earlier Western experiences with Russian irredentism in Moldova or Georgia. They could signal that the United States is giving Moscow carte blanche to pursue its interests in other areas of the former Soviet Union by whatever means it deems appropriate, including military force.

Indeed, for many years Russia has pursued a policy of revising borders in the former Soviet domain. This includes the establishment of Russian protectorates in Moldovan Transnistria and the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as the annexation of Crimea and covered invasion of the Donets Basin. Neither the strategic partnership between the EU and Russia, which began in 1994, nor the modernization partnership of 23 EU states with Russia after 2008, nor the NATO-Russia Council founded in 2002 and a range of other institutional frameworks and cooperation agreements were able to prevent Russian infiltration of the European security system. In this context it also becomes clear how unhelpful the reference to the alleged disregard for Russian security sensitivities by NATO enlargement is as an explanation of Russian revisionism. The Republic of Moldova declared itself a permanently non-aligned country in Article XI of its new constitution in 1994; Since then, Chişinău has consistently adhered to this provision.However, the early decision on neutrality and the corresponding Moldovan foreign policy did not help the country either to reduce Moscow's support for Transnistrian separatism or to end the illegal Russian troop presence on Moldovan territory.

While these and similar aspects of post-Soviet international relations are little known in the West, they are all too well known in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. The widespread distrust of the Kremlin among the non-Russian elites of the former Tsarist and Soviet empires is the result of decades, if not centuries, of ambivalent experiences with the often imperialist rulers of Moscow. The frequent proposals by Western politicians and diplomats to resolve the conflict between the West and Russia by making Ukraine a permanently neutral state (sometimes referred to as "Finlandization") are therefore considered unsuitable by many security experts in the former USSR considered to be a sustainable solution to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. In Kiev, these proposals are interpreted as the result of persistent naivety on the part of the West in dealing with Russia. Against this background, it seems unlikely that Ukraine would agree to a permanent loss of territory and a non-aligned status just because this could possibly be demanded by the West in the near future.

An American and / or European appeasement course against Russian revisionism, irredentism and neo-imperialism would therefore have side effects that would increase rather than decrease the likelihood of a new escalation in the post-Soviet space. The possible recognition of the annexation of Crimea by the USA would lead to a general devaluation of international law and in particular to its relativization in the post-Soviet area. Russia had the borders of Ukraine not only in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 and in the Belove Agreement to dissolve the USSR of 1991, but also in the Ukrainian-Russian friendship treaty of 1997, in the Russian-Ukrainian border treaty of 2003 and in other bilateral and multilateral treaties. Any even implicit acceptance by the United States of Russia's recent territorial expansion would set a dangerous precedent and send a worrying signal to politicians in both Moscow and Russia-bordering states where national and international law are only partially respected and followed.

If the US under Trump were to soften its security pledges towards Ukraine, this would also be a disastrous message to all future potential nuclear weapon owners and distributors - regardless of whether they are friends or enemies of America. The USA would signal to the international community that promises made by great powers, such as those formulated in the Budapest Memorandum, are of little value. The lesson for all current and future heads of state would be, “When you have the bomb, keep it. If you neither have a bomb nor are under the protection of a nuclear alliance, but have a powerful, potentially unfriendly neighbor, you need the bomb. Don't be as naive as the Ukrainians in 1994 and don't rely on documents like the NPT. When the going gets tough, the guarantors of such agreements - even the most powerful like the US - will forget their promises. "

The Trump administration could therefore (again) "restore America to its former greatness" by honoring its international commitments and taking the right side of history in the ongoing fight against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. How important compliance with the international non-proliferation regime is for this was already recognized 18 years ago when the businessman Donald J. Trump said in an interview: “We can talk about the economy, we can talk about social security - the biggest problem in the world but is the proliferation of nuclear weapons ”.[21] One can only hope that President Trump will remember this maxim and keep it.

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Published online: 2017-6-12

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