Academic journal article McNair Papers

2. Ukraine's Approach to Nuclear Weapons

Academic journal article McNair Papers

2. Ukraine's Approach to Nuclear Weapons

Article excerpt

There were many reasons for Ukraine's inaction on the nuclear front, but one of the fundamental problems was the multiplicity of confusing signals that emanated from its own parliament. While the executive branch maintained its public commitment to fulfilling Ukraine's non-nuclear pledge, in the Rada there were various competing trends. The dominant position was the commitment to abide by Ukraine's promise of becoming non-nuclear but with the caveat that certain prerequisites would first need to be met. This was in line with the Rada's declaration of October 1991.

But there were different variants of this position, such as the view of some parliamentarians that Ukraine would need to retain the weapons for the near future as a tool to foil perceived Russian aggression, but did not exclude eventually giving them up. To further complicate the picture, supporters of ratification posited at times the view that even with START ratification, Ukraine may not necessarily accede to the NPT in the near future. There was talk, for example, by Defense Minister Morozov that Ukraine may require a unique status, meaning membership in the NPT with nuclear weapons for some period of time. There was also the small vocal minority spanning nationalists, on the one hand, who saw the weapons as security against Russia and wanted Ukraine to remain a nuclear state and conservative forces, on the other hand, who viewed the missiles as a means for helping to re-establish links with Moscow. There were also factions that supported retaining the more advanced SS-24 missiles for some period of time or of re-arming them with conventional warheads. What made the overall picture even more confusing was the fact that parliamentarians would either attach themselves at different times to any of the above points of new or up the ante on various preconditions that needed to be met before ratification could take place. The latter was particularly true regarding the issue of security assurances. The need for the West to meet certain prerequisites for START ratification, however, was the mantra of both the executive and legislative branches. The most important prerequisites included security assurances, compensation for the components of the warheads both strategic and the already shipped tactical weapons, and financial assistance for dismantlement.

The executive branch, however, was not immune to much of tiffs confusion. In June 1993, Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma stated before the parliament that, while Ukraine should ultimately become a non-nuclear state, Ukraine may have to temporarily retain the more modern SS-24 missiles. Although Kuchma spoke in his capacity as a Rada deputy and not as Prime Minister, his statement did underline the divisions in the Ukrainian polity. These contradictory goals and divisions within the government only compounded the confusion of what was the ultimate goal of Ukraine and left a great deal of frustration and confusion in Washington.

In these confusing cross-winds, the Rada became a convenient whipping boy for Kravchuk. Kravchuk and his ministers consistently voiced their support of START but pointed Io the parliament as the obstruction. Washington's position was that the United States should not get involved with negotiating with parliament and that Kravchuk should take the leadership in dealing with his parliament. But there were ample complaints from the Parliament against Kravchuk. Former Rada Defense Committee Chairman Valentyn Lemish complained in July, 1993, that Kravchuk's advisers had submitted poorly prepared documents the previous December to the Rada. Because they were not properly thought out, they left much work for the Rada to do, thus delaying the START debate process.

But on this issue, as on others, Kravchuk let the parliament define the debate and, as a result, START became a political football for the Rada, with no one seemingly in control. More cynical observers viewed this as a good cop, bad cop approach by which Kiev sought to see to what extent it could derive as much as possible from the United States. …

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