Don’t Panic! The Budapest Memorandum Does Not Require US and UK to Defend Ukraine
Lots of reports, including those from the new Ukrainian government at a meeting of the UN Security Council, suggest that Russian military forces have crossed into Ukraine. This has caused a mild panic on Wall Street and some typically overwrought press reporting from, just to give an example, Britain’s Daily Mail.
A treaty signed in 1994 by the US and Britain could pull both countries into a war to protect Ukraine if Putin’s troops intervene.
Bill Clinton, John Major, Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kuchma – the then-rulers of the USA, UK, Russia and Ukraine – agreed to the The Budapest Memorandum as part of the denuclearization of former Soviet republics after the dissolution of the Soviet Union
Technically it means that if Russia has invaded Ukraine then it would be difficult for the US and Britain to avoid going to war.
Uh…no it doesn’t. At least not from my reading of it. It might be a good idea for the US to stand up for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and it is true that the Budapest Memorandum commits Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity (I thought Russia’s president wanted to respect international law?). The UN Charter does that anyway. The Memorandum does not in anyway obligate any country to intervene in order to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
In other words, it is not a security guarantee, like the kind that the US has with Japan. It is also not a formal treaty which, at least under US law, would have more binding impact. So relax, American doves, it’s 2014, not 1914. International agreements will not lead us blindly to war (sorry, Ukraine!).