By Debbie Gregory.
On February 28th, Russian forces entered Crimea, the Ukrainian southern peninsula on the Black Sea. Russian ground and naval forces have successfully and non-violently blockaded Ukrainian ground forces and navy ships in their bases. Russian President Vladimir Putin has told the world that his country’s military is merely protecting the lives of Russian citizens who reside in Crimea. But members of the Ukrainian government in Kiev are calling the Russian occupation of Crimea a military invasion and a breach of international law. The weeks-old new government in the Ukraine has asked the United States and Britain to help protect their sovereignty, as the two countries previously promised they would.
In the early 1990’s, the Ukraine was home to what was, at the time, the third largest nuclear weapons arsenal due to leftover stockpiles from the former Soviet Union. The Ukrainians agreed to surrender all of their nuclear weapons to Russia in return for certain terms that included, “to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.” This line was in the treaty called the Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signed on December 5, 1994 by the Ukraine, the United States, Britain and the Russian Federation.
The treaty clearly states: “The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”
Among all of the terms of the agreement, the last term requires that all signers of the treaty “will consult in the event a situation arises which raises a question concerning these commitments.”
For the sake of peace, and to lessen the possibilities of a nuclear war, our government signed that agreement, as did Britain, Ukraine and Russia. It appears that the Russian military has broken the treaty. And our government is currently consulting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who arrived in Washington this week.
The U.S. military is currently maneuvering its forces in case it is called upon to enforce the treaty. Last week, twelve F-16 Fighting Falcon jets and 300 service members were sent to Poland. The U.S. was already planning to perform joint exercises with the Polish military in April, but at Poland’s request, the maneuvers were moved up and will include an expanded number of participants. The U.S. has also sent six F-15 Eagles and 60 airmen to Lithuania. More movements are expected in the near future as the U.S. and other countries position their forces accordingly in answer to continuing tension in the Ukraine.
Many people have already declared their opposition to any U.S. military involvement in the matter. War is never desirable and should be avoided at all costs. Let us hope that a peaceful resolution can be reached in this conflict. If not, we know that our men and women in uniform will be ready, if called upon, to uphold our part of the treaty.