Russia had promised to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty in the Budapest Memorandum

Crimea crisisAs of this morning, March 3, 2014, reportedly 20,000 Russian troops have occupied Crimea, all with unmarked insignia.

The Budapest Memorandum And Its Relevance To Crimea

February 28, 2014
by Ron Synovitz, for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

With tensions rising in Crimea and pro-Russian forces controlling the peninsula’s main airports, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has called on Russia to ‘not violate the Budapest Memorandum.’ So what is the ‘Budapest Memorandum’ and what does it have to do with Crimea?

What exactly is the ‘Budapest Memorandum’?

The ‘Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances’ is a diplomatic memorandum that was signed in December 1994 by Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

It is not a formal treaty, but rather, a diplomatic document under which signatories made promises to each other as part of the denuclearization of former Soviet republics after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Under the memorandum, Ukraine promised to remove all Soviet-era nuclear weapons from its territory, send them to disarmament facilities in Russia, and sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Ukraine kept these promises.

In return, Russia and the Western signatory countries essentially consecrated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine as an independent state. They did so by applying the principles of territorial integrity and nonintervention in 1975 Helsinki Final Act — a Cold War-era treaty signed by 35 states including the Soviet Union — to an independent post-Soviet Ukraine.

Which principles in the Helsinki Final Act, reiterated in the ‘Budapest Memorandum,’ are relevant to the current situation in the Crimea?

In the ‘Budapest Memorandum,’ Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States promised that none of them would ever threaten or use force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine. They also pledged that none of them would ever use economic coercion to subordinate Ukraine to their own interest.

They specifically pledged they would refrain from making each other’s territory the object of military occupation or engage in other uses of force in violation of international law.

All sides agreed that no such occupation or acquisition will be recognized as legal and that the signatories would ‘consult in the event a situation arises which raises a question concerning these commitments.’

Is there anything legally binding about the ‘Budapest Memorandum’ regarding Russia’s obligations to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity?

‘That’s actually a much more complex question than it may sound. It is binding in international law, but that doesn’t mean it has any means of enforcement,’ says Barry Kellman is a professor of law and director of the International Weapons Control Center at DePaul University’s College of Law.

‘The ‘Budapest Memorandum’ follows the Helsinki Final Act and essentially reiterates its provisions. There are confidence building measures and then a host of other broader obligations – primarily negative obligations. Don’t interfere.’

Kellman concludes that there are a host of other sources of international law that oblige Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity — including the provisions of the CSCE treaty and the UN Charter.


3 responses to “Russia had promised to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty in the Budapest Memorandum

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    The “treaty” is nothing more than toilet paper with signatures, representing politicians that want a “feel good” episode to report back to their voting base.


  2. Thank you StMA for this informative and revealing post. Accordingly, Russia violated this Memorandum and other international law as set forth above. They are aggressors that do not fear enforcement.


  3. There are no useful military options without starting World War III. The Security Council cannot take action against one of the “Big 5.” The General Assembly is toothless. Ukraine is not a NATO member. Putin is using the Crimean ethnic Russians in the same way Hitler used the Sudeten ethnic Germans in 1938. Obama is Neville Chamberlain reborn.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s