The United States threatened to pound Ukraine into powder if Kyiv did not give up its nuclear arsenal and fearing the American threat, Ukraine’s leadership surrendered its nuclear warheads. This is how Russian media distorted the words of Ukraine’s first President Leonid Kravchuk, who allegedly admitted that after the collapse of the USSR Ukraine could have accidentally launched a nuclear missile. “Post-Soviet Ukraine was in a fever, anything could have happened with the nuclear weapons. That is why we (Russia) and the Americans posed this question to Kravchuk so categorically” writes RT.
After the annexation of Crimea and occupation of eastern Donbas, the Ukrainian authorities began to regret their decision on nuclear disarmament and instead of the United States began to blame Russia. This once again shows the nationalist Russophobic ideology of modern Ukraine, Russian media claim.
Ukrainian television channel 24 really did conduct a sweeping interview with Leonid Kravchuk during which he addressed the topic of Ukraine giving up its nuclear arsenal after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Kravchuk said that at that time the US warned Ukraine of possible economic restrictions being placed on Ukraine if it did not give up the nuclear weapons that were deployed on its territory. The problem was not that Ukraine could accidentally launch a missile, Kravchuk pointed out, but rather that all the nuclear missiles on Ukraine’s territory were aimed at the US and all the codes for launching them were located in the Kremlin. As all nuclear launchers were exclusively controlled by Moscow, Ukraine could not guarantee security to its western partners.
“Why did they pose such a demand? Because there were 165 nuclear ballistic missiles aimed at the Unites States. The launch codes were in Moscow but the missiles were with us. Who could guarantee that no one would press a button and launch a rocket?” Kravchuk said.
There were also many questions pertaining to the technical state of these nuclear missiles, Kravchuk has repeatedly explained. In 1997 the shelf life of the Ukrainian warheads in was ending and they needed to be replaced, or risk another Chornobyl. For abandoning the Russian-controlled nuclear weapons on its territory, Ukraine received economic benefits and avoided international isolation. According to Leonid Kravchuk, all of Ukraine’s nuclear warheads were transferred to the United States.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine found itself with the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. On October 24, 1991 the Ukrainian parliament passed legislation declaring Ukraine a nuclear free state. Three years later Ukraine committed to the non-proliferation treaties and in exchange the US, Russia and Great Britain signed the Budapest memorandum guaranteeing Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Annexing Crimea and invading eastern Ukraine, Russia violated the Budapest memorandum. There is no Russophobia in Ukraine’s or its western partners’ position towards Russia, who disregarded a long list of international obligations, including the Budapest memorandum and launched a war against Ukraine.