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21 March, 2014  ▪  Olha Vorozhbyt

Volodymyr Ohryzko: “Ukraine has the moral and legal right to restore its nuclear status”

The Ukrainian Week talks to Volodymyr Ohryzko, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2007–2009, about what Ukraine can do if the guarantors under the Budapest Memorandum it signed in 1994 in exchange for giving up its strategic nuclear weapons arsenal, the third largest in the world, fail to meet their commitments

U.W: In your blog, you talk about the need totake steps to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and “to start producing the weapons”. What are these steps?

I think that it is unnecessary to talk about details at this time. The steps taken in such cases are formal and everyone who is well-versed in international law knows what they are. There are relevant procedures that come into effect once the political decision is made. Ukraine has fulfilled its obligations – the guarantors have not. So we have the moral and legal right to restore our nuclear status and take measures to protect ourselves independently.

Our guarantors have to see the critical nature of the situation and focus on their obligations. If they do not react to this, we fall victim to blatant aggression and witness the annexation of part of our territory, then in my view, the Ukrainian leadership should make a political decision and act upon it.

U.W: Isnt it risky to restore nuclear arms in a country, where until recently, criminal forces were in government?

I think that we are beginning to say farewell to the criminal element, so from now on we will have completely different governments and leaders, who will be at the peak of their responsibilities (particularly when talking about a country that will restore its nuclear status, should there be a relevant political decision). This really is a huge responsibility, but I think that as a society and as a state, we have matured sufficiently to understand this as well as to be capable of taking adequate steps.

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U.W: Can Ukraine guarantee the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons?

It has to do this, of course. It is the obligation of the state.

U.W: If Kyiv begins to reinstate its nuclear potential, could this pose a threat to Ukraine’s joining NATO?

It would not be necessary for Ukraine to restore its nuclear status if it could gain NATO membership within a short period, since the nuclear potential of three countries, namely the UK, France and the US would have been sufficient to cover Ukraine with this “umbrella”. But since this issue, according to our government, is not on the agenda, there is no option other than for Ukraine to search for means to independently guarantee its own security.

If our current government formulated its foreign policy strategy clearly and intelligibly and actually set itself the task of becoming a NATO member as soon as possible, the nuclear issue would hardly be as urgent as it is now. However, while the government believes it can do without NATO, effective deterrence measures automatically come up on the agenda.

U.W: Will the military manoeuvres of the USA and its allies in the Black Sea alarm and irritate Putin even more, thus leading to an escalation of the conflict?

If we are afraid of our own shadow, we will always be in the position of “but what if something happens”. I think we need to act, based on our own interests, and consider what others will say about it at a later date. Our true partners should understand such a position, but for Russia, this is a burden that it will not be able to overcome. Because for Russia, everyone is an enemy.

U.W: Can Russia count on an alliance with China or Iran should there be global resistance?

I don’t think that China will support Russia’s expansionism, since it is in a similar situation. Just think about Tibet or Taiwan, not to mention the northern parts of China. So if Beijing at least officially supports the seizure of foreign territory and the self-declaration of some individual parts as “independent states”, which will then transfer to the jurisdiction of other capitals, it would be a very dangerous precedent for China itself. In my view, it will at least remain neutral. As far as Iran is concerned, if the West takes the right position in ensuring Iran’s access to the world oil markets, Tehran will not become Russia’s ally.

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U.W: You indicated that it is also necessary to reinstate short and medium-range missiles. Does Ukraine have the resources to reinstate such weapons?

It can start with short-range missiles that can carry any warheads. Given their long range, they will be an important deterrent. So, Ukraine could use missiles that can be adjusted accordingly within a short time span. Moreover, Ukraine still has the necessary technology to do that.  

U.W: Could declarations that Kyiv will reinstate its nuclear potential face negative reaction in the world?

To prevent negative reaction, the international community must take concrete measures to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty. If it thinks that it can make do with calls and “concern”, it will play into the hands of the aggressor, by not fulfilling its obligations. Under such conditions, Ukraine should have no moral or legal concerns about negative reaction. If one party to an agreement reneges on its obligations, the other has every right to consider itself released from its commitments.


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