Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances

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Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances
SignedDecember 5, 1994 (1994-12-05)
LocationBudapest, Hungary
Ukraine. Memorandum on Security Assurances at Wikisource

The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances refers to three identical political agreements signed at the OSCE conference in Budapest, Hungary on 5 December 1994, providing security assurances by its signatories relating to the accession of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The memorandum was originally signed by three nuclear powers, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. China and France gave somewhat weaker individual assurances in separate documents.[1]

The memorandum included security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

As a result, between 1994 and 1996, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons. Before that, Ukraine had the world's third largest nuclear weapons stockpile,[2][3] of which Ukraine had physical if not operational control.[4][5] The use of the weapons was dependent on Russian-controlled electronic Permissive Action Links and the Russian command and control system.[4][5]

In 2009, the Russian Federation and the United States released a joint statement that the memorandum’s security assurances would still be respected after the expiration of the START Treaty.[6]

Following the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014, the US,[7][8] Canada,[9] the UK,[10] along with other countries,[11] stated that Russian involvement was a breach of its obligations to Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum, a Memorandum transmitted to the United Nations under the signature of Sergei Lavrov, amongst others,[12] and in violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. On 4 March 2014, the Russian president replied to a question on violation of Budapest Memorandum, falsely describing current Ukrainian situation as a revolution, when "a new state arises, but with this state and in respect to this state, we have not signed any obligatory documents".[13] Russia stated it had never been under obligation to "force any part of Ukraine's civilian population to stay in Ukraine against its will." Russia suggested that the US was in violation of the Budapest Memorandum, describing the Euromaidan as a US-instigated coup.[14]


According to the memorandum,[15] Russia, the US, and the UK confirmed, in recognition of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine becoming parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and in effect abandoning its nuclear arsenal to Russia, that they would:

  1. Respect Belarusian, Kazakh and Ukrainian independence and sovereignty and the existing borders.[16]
  2. Refrain from the threat or use of force against Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
  3. Refrain from using economic pressure on Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine in order to influence its politics.
  4. Seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, "if Belarus/Kazakhstan/Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used".
  5. Refrain from the use of nuclear arms against Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
  6. Consult with one another if questions arise regarding these commitments.[12][17]


Under the agreement, the signatories offered Ukraine "security assurances" in exchange for its adherence to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The memorandum bundled together a set of assurances that Ukraine already held from the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) Final Act, United Nations Charter and Non-Proliferation Treaty.[1] The Ukrainian government nevertheless found it valuable to have these assurances in a Ukraine-specific document.[18][19]

The Budapest Memorandum was negotiated at political level, though it is not entirely clear whether the instrument is devoid entirely of legal provisions. It refers to assurances, but it does not impose a legal obligation of military assistance on its parties.[1][19] According to Stephen MacFarlane, a professor of international relations "It gives signatories justification if they take action, but it does not force anyone to act in Ukraine."[18] In the U.S. neither the George H. W. Bush administration nor the Clinton administration was prepared to give a military commitment to Ukraine, nor did they believe the U.S. Senate would ratify an international treaty, so the memorandum was adopted in more limited terms.[19] As to the financial side of the denuclearization process, it was decided that Ukraine would receive the trifold funding from The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, The Defence Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR), and The United States Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF).[20] The memorandum does indicate a requirement of consultation among the parties "in the event a situation arises that raises a question concerning the[...] commitments" set out in the memorandum.[21] Whether or not the memorandum sets out legal obligations, the difficulties that Ukraine has encountered since early 2014 may cast doubt on the credibility of future security guarantees offered in exchange for non-proliferation commitments.[22]

China and France gave security assurances for Ukraine in separate documents. China's governmental statement of 4 December 1994 did not call for mandatory consultations if questions arose, just calling for "fair consultations". France's declaration of 5 December 1994 did not mention consultations.[1]

As some scholars assume, in a sense, Ukraine’s decision of signing the Budapest Memorandum embodied the proof of Ukraine’s development in a democratic direction and its desire to step away from the post-soviet past while making first steps towards its European future at that time. For the past twenty years, the Ukrainian nuclear disarmament case has been an exemplary case of nuclear nonproliferation until the events known as the Ukrainian crisis.[20]

Breach of the agreement[edit]

Annexation of Crimea by Russia[edit]

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia after hosting the Budapest Memorandum Ministerial on the Ukraine crisis in Paris, France, on March 5, 2014.

In February 2014, Russian forces seized or blockaded various airports, as well as other strategic sites throughout Crimea.[23] The troops were attached to the Russian Black Sea Fleet stationed in Crimea,[24] placing Russia in violation of the Budapest Memorandum. The Russian Foreign Ministry had confirmed the movement of armoured units attached to the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, but asserted that they are acting within the scope of the various agreements between the two countries. Other official Russian sources denied that the units in the area of Sevastopol International Airport, specifically, were attached to the Black Sea Fleet.[25] Russia responded by supporting a referendum on whether the Crimea should join the Russian Federation. Russia announced the referendum was being conducted by 'local forces'. On 16 March, Russia annexed Crimea. Ukraine vigorously protested the action as a violation of Article 1 of the Budapest Memorandum.

In response to the crisis, the Ukrainian parliament requested that the Memorandum's signatories reaffirm their commitment to the principles enshrined in the political agreement, and further asked that they hold consultations with Ukraine to ease tensions.[26]

The Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally displaced persons (Ukrainian: Міністерство з питань тимчасово окупованих територій та внутрішньо переміщених осіб України) is a government ministry in Ukraine that was officially established on 20 April 2016 [27] to manage occupied parts of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea regions affected by Russian military intervention of 2014.

On 24 March 2014, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper led the rest of the G7 partners at an ad-hoc meeting during the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague to suspend Russian membership, partially, said Harper, because Russia had violated the Budapest Memorandum. He said that Ukraine had given up its nuclear weapons "on the basis of an explicit Russian guarantee of its territorial integrity. By breaching that guarantee, President Putin has provided a rationale for those elsewhere who needed little more than that already furnished by pride or grievance to arm themselves to the teeth." Harper also indicated support for Ukraine by saying he would work with the new Ukrainian government towards a free trade agreement.[28] Harper was subsequently defeated in the federal election of October 15, 2015, and resigned as leader of the Conservative Party.

In February 2016 Sergey Lavrov claimed that "Russia never violated Budapest memorandum. It contained only one obligation, not to attack Ukraine with nukes".[29] However, Canadian journalist Michael Colborne pointed out "there are actually six obligations in the Budapest Memorandum, and the first of them is “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine." Colborne also pointed out that a broadcast of Lavrov’s claim on the Twitter account of Russia's embassy in the United Kingdom actually "provided a link to the text of the Budapest Memorandum itself with all six obligations, including the ones Russia has clearly violated — right there for everyone to see." Steven Pifer, an American diplomat who was involved in drafting the Budapest Memorandum, later commented that "what does it say about the mendacity of Russian diplomacy and its contempt for international opinion when the foreign minister says something that can be proven wrong with less than 30 seconds of Google fact-checking?"[30] Despite this snark, Russia argued that the United States broke the third point of the agreement by introducing, and threatening further, sanctions against the Yanukovych government.

2013 Belarus sanctions[edit]

The government of Belarus said that US sanctions were in breach of the Memorandum; the United States government responded that, although not legally binding, the Memorandum is compatible with its work against human rights violations in eastern Europe.[31]

Kerch Strait incident[edit]

On November 27, 2018, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine appealed to the signatory states of the Budapest Memorandum with the requirement to hold urgent consultations to ensure full compliance with the commitments and the immediate cessation of Russian aggression against Ukraine.[32][33][34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Vasylenko, Volodymyr (15 December 2009). "On assurances without guarantees in a 'shelved document'". The Day. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  2. ^ Kuzio, Taras (November 2010). "The Crimea:Europe's Next Flashpoint" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 March 2014.
  3. ^ "Budapest Memorandums on Security Assurances, 1994". Council on Foreign Relations. 5 December 1994. Archived from the original on 17 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  4. ^ a b Martel, William C. (1998). "Why Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons: nonproliferation incentives and disincentives". In Barry R. Schneider; William L. Dowdy (eds.). Pulling Back from the Nuclear Brink: Reducing and Countering Nuclear Threats. Psychology Press. pp. 88–104. ISBN 9780714648569. Retrieved 6 August 2014. There are some reports that Ukraine had established effective custody, but not operational control, of the cruise missiles and gravity bombs. ... By early 1994 the only barrier to Ukraine's ability to exercise full operational control over the nuclear weapons on missiles and bombers deployed on its soil was its inability to circumvent Russian permissive action links (PALs).
  5. ^ a b Pikayev, Alexander A. (Spring–Summer 1994). "Post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine: Who can push the Button?" (PDF). The Nonproliferation Review. 1 (3): 31. doi:10.1080/10736709408436550. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  6. ^ "Ukraine, Nuclear Weapons, and Security Assurances At a Glance | Arms Control Association". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  7. ^ "Readout of President Obama's Call with President Putin" (Press release). The White House. 1 March 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  8. ^ Editorial Board (28 February 2014). "Condemnation isn't enough for Russian actions in Crimea". Washington Post.
  9. ^ That, Corinne Ton; Commisso, Christina (22 March 2014). "In Kyiv, Harper calls for 'complete reversal' of Crimea annexation". CTV News.
  10. ^ Stevenson, Chris; Williams, Oscar (1 March 2014). "Ukraine crisis: David Cameron joins Angela Merkel in expressing anxiety and warns that 'the world is watching'". The Independent.
  11. ^ Fisher, Matthew (24 March 2014). "Russia suspended from G8 over annexation of Crimea, Group of Seven nations says". National Post. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Letter dated 94/12/07 from the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General" (PDF). United Nations. 19 December 1994. hdl:11176/44537. A/49/765; S/1994/1399. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 October 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  13. ^ "Putin at a press conference, 4 March 2014 (in Russian)". YouTube. 4 March 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  14. ^ Медведев: Россия не гарантирует целостность Украины [Medvedev: Russia does not guarantee the integrity of Ukraine] (in Russian). 20 May 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  15. ^ "Budapest Memorandums on Security Assurances, 1994 - Council on Foreign Relations". 5 December 1994. Archived from the original on 12 March 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  16. ^ "Joint Declaration of the Leaders of Ukraine, Russia, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America, as well as a Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine's Accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed in Budapest on 5 December 1994" (PDF). United Nations. 21 December 1994. CD/1285. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  17. ^ Philipp Bleek (29 April 2014). "Why Ukraine wasn't a nuclear power in the early 1990s and the West has no legal obligation to come to its aid now". Arms Control Wonk. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  18. ^ a b Are the US and the UK bound to intervene in Ukraine? Archived 19 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine, france24, 3 March 2014
  19. ^ a b c Steven Pifer (4 March 2014). "Ukraine crisis' impact on nuclear weapons". CNN. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
  20. ^ a b Shymanska, Alina (2018). "The "Double Standard" of Nonproliferation: Regime Type and the U.S. Response to Nuclear Weapons Program". International Journal of Nuclear Security. 4 (1): 1–20. doi:10.7290/ijns040101.
  21. ^ Budapest Memorandum, paragraph 6.
  22. ^ "EJIL: Talk! – The Budapest Memorandum and Beyond: Have the Western Parties Breached a Legal Obligation?".
  23. ^ "POLITICAL LEGITIMACY AND INTERNATIONAL LAW IN CRIMEA: PUSHING THE U.S. AND RUSSIA APART". Diplomatic Courier. 8 May 2014. Archived from the original on 12 May 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
  24. ^ Booth, William; DeYoung, Karen (28 February 2014). "Reports of Russian military activity in Crimea prompts stern warning from Obama". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  25. ^ "Movement of Russian armored vehicles in Crimea fully complies with agreements — Foreign Ministry". RT. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  26. ^ "Ukrainian parliament appeals to Budapest Memorandum signatories". Interfax Ukraine. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  27. ^ (in Ukrainian) The Cabinet decided to create the Ministry of temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced persons, Ukrayinska Pravda (20 April 2016)
  28. ^ Chase, Steven; Mark MacKinnon (24 March 2014). "Harper leads charge to expel Russia from G8, ramp up sanctions". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  29. ^ "Lavrov: Russia never violated Budapest memorandum". Russian Embassy in United Kingdom. 27 January 2016. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  30. ^ Michael Colborne: Russia’s bald-faced lies by Michael Colborne, National Post, February 4, 2016.
  31. ^ "Belarus: Budapest Memorandum". U.S. Embassy in Minsk (Press release). 12 April 2013. Archived from the original on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  32. ^ "Україна скликає зустріч ядерних держав". 5 December 2018. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  33. ^ "Україна скликає зустріч ядерних держав за механізмом Будапештського меморандуму". Ukrayinska Pravda. 5 December 2018.
  34. ^ "Заява МЗС України у зв'язку зі скликанням консультацій відповідно до Будапештського меморандуму". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. 5 December 2018.

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