, Volume 91, Number 3

David S. Yost

Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States extended security assurances to Ukraine in December 1994 in an agreement that became known as the Budapest Memorandum. This agreement was part of a package of arrangements whereby Ukraine transferred the Soviet-made nuclear weapons on its territory to Russia and acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS). Russia’s violations of the Budapest Memorandum, notably its annexation of Crimea, could have far-reaching implications for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament because of the questions that Russia’s behaviour has raised about the reliability of major-power security assurances for NNWS parties to the NPT. Doubts about the reliability of such assurances could create incentives to initiate, retain or accelerate national nuclear weapons programs. Moreover, because the Budapest Memorandum included restatements of UN Charter provisions and principles articulated in the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, Russia’s disregard for the Budapest Memorandum has raised fundamental questions about the future of international order. The Russians have demonstrated that, despite economic sanctions and international condemnation, they are prepared to disregard longstanding legal and political norms, including those expressed in the Budapest Memorandum, in pursuit of strategic and economic advantages and the fulfilment of national identity goals. Unless Russia reverses its dangerous course, the fate of the Budapest Memorandum may in retrospect stand out as a landmark in the breakdown of international order.

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