Russia, Ukraine and Nato

Sir, – Many commentators and contributors to the letters page seem unaware of Russia’s treaty obligations to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, instead focusing on the transfer of control of Crimea to Kiev on the 300th anniversary of Russian-Ukrainian unification in 1954 by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, a change of limited significance as both states were members of the USSR but seen by some as a justification for Russia’s annexation of Crimea as simply a return to the status quo.

In fact post-Soviet Union Russia has signed several treaties and accords guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea.

When Kiev gained its independence from Moscow in 1991, it briefly became the third largest nuclear power in the world. In order to prevent nuclear proliferation, the United States and Britain struck a deal with Russia and Ukraine to eliminate the latter’s atomic weapons stockpiles.

Under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine agreed to transfer all of its nuclear arms to Russia.


In exchange, Russia, the US and the UK reaffirmed “their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine”.

Three years later, in order to calm tensions over the Black Sea fleet, Moscow and Kiev signed the bilateral Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation in 1997. Under Article 2, the neighbours agreed to “respect each other’s territorial integrity, and confirm the inviolability of the borders existing between them”.

So the argument that Crimea (and possibly the Donets basin as well) rightly belongs to Russia by historical legacy from the Soviet Union is entirely baseless.

However, realpolitik would suggest that the West should be cautious about full Nato membership for Ukraine. The US could not accept Soviet missiles in Cuba so it is simply unrealistic to expect Russia to accept Nato military bases in Ukraine. Some kind of limited associate membership, without troops or armaments on the ground, might be a wiser option. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.