July 23, 2021

Repeating the Budapest Memorandum


It is disheartening to hear that, despite the lengths to which Ukraine has gone to protect Europe’s eastern flank from Russian aggression, key allies in Europe are still unwilling to support even a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine. And many who support and fight for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, whether from within the country or externally, are rightly fuming that the United States and Germany announced on July 21 an agreement that will allow completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which clearly undermines the energy security of Ukraine as well as other eastern and central European countries.

In a truly delusional statement made on July 22, outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who brokered the energy security deal with U.S. President Joe Biden, called it “good” for Ukraine.

Despite remarkably deep political discord among U.S. politicians, even members of U.S. Congress have tellingly united in their disdain for the pipeline. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that he had no doubt Russia “will use the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a weapon of coercion against Ukraine and transatlantic energy security as soon as it is operational.” U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said via tweet that, “Nord Stream 2 will strengthen Russia, undermine America’s national interest and threaten the security of Ukraine – a key U.S. ally.” The day before the U.S.-German agreement was announced, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) said that “Congress must reject any deals that fail to protect transatlantic security and Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

Meanwhile, and not coincidentally, the Biden administration almost simultaneously announced that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will visit the U.S. on August 30, and there are indications that the two presidents will sign an important bilateral defense and security agreement when the Ukrainian president visits Washington.

Speaking with The Weekly, a Ukrainian presidential advisor said that an agreement is currently being finalized behind closed doors. That deal is “hopeful, but not certain,” the advisor said.

Talk of such a bilateral security agreement immediately raises the specter of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which utterly failed to ensure Ukraine’s territorial integrity after Ukraine agreed to give up what was at the time the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. It is difficult to hold out hope that any new bilateral agreement will have the necessary teeth to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, particularly as officials negotiating on the Ukrainian side have little leverage left that they can use to demand stronger terms to repel the looming Russian threat. And there should be little doubt regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions in Ukraine. He made that very clear with his manifesto “on the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians.”