Putin should abide by the Budapest Memorandum
WHAT’S GOING ON in President Joe Biden’s mind on the Ukraine crisis? First, he announced that the U.S. would not send soldiers to Ukraine to fight the Russians. Secondly, he just announced that the 160 National Guard troops deployed to the American Embassy in Kiev, are going to be withdrawn and sent home. Thirdly, he didn’t send the 8,500 American troops that he promised he’d send to Eastern Europe. Instead he changed their status to “heightened alert,” meaning they’ll stand by somewhere in the U.S. ready to be airlifted to Eastern Europe if Russia attacks. And, fourthly, he announced that the U.S. will “act swiftly and decisively” if the Russians invade Ukraine. What was his message? Why the mixed signals?
The third time he talked to Putin at his request, Biden didn’t offer anything different from his two previous conversations with Putin. Instead, Biden announced Russia would invade in a matter of days. Instantly, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy complained that Biden was creating “panic” among Ukrainians by saying that Russia will invade Ukraine in February. Well, it’s now almost mid-February and the Russians haven’t invaded yet. Biden characterized the impending invasion as using bombers and missiles, which would attack Kiev and other cities. Evidently, Biden’s statement had created “panic” and “chaos” among Ukrainians but the people remained calm, going about their business as if nothing was happening. And come to think about it, nothing has happened yet.
No need to panic
According to BBC News, Zelenskiy who spoke at a press conference in Kiev said, “We don’t need this panic. There are even signals from the respected leaders of the states, they say that there will be war tomorrow. Any news of how much this panic is costing our state?”
The question is: Why does Biden appear to be telling the world that chaos would soon reign in Ukraine? The truth of the matter is that the Ukrainians have been calm considering that more than 100,000 Russian troops are amassed along Russia’s border with Ukraine. They should panic, right? Yet, they’re acting as if nothing is happening.
While, it’s true that there has been war between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian armed forces in the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine since 2014, it hasn’t spilled over outside the Donbas region into the rest of the country. And the Ukranians seem to be nonchalant about the whole situation. They appear to be relaxed and calm, which shows that they do not care or worry about the Russians invading their country.
Swift and decisive
Which makes one wonder: Why did Biden insist that the invasion would be “swift and decisive”? Earlier today, CNN news anchor Fredricka Whitfield asked a guest, a member of the congressional Armed Services Committee, how soon is “swift and decisive,” to which the congressman couldn’t answer. But being cognizant that Biden promised that no U.S. troops would be sent to fight the Russians, the best the U.S., if any, would do is stay within the confines of NATO territory like in Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In other words, no NATO forces would enter Ukrainian territory to fight the invading Russians. Honestly, I’ve never seen any war conducted that way. The Russians would enter Ukraine like they’re going to a picnic, not a country in panic.
First of all, Putin had made threatening remarks about launching nuclear attacks against NATO countries. But why would Putin use nuclear weapons against NATO? Putin may be crazy, but he is not stupid. Only a stupid leader would use nuclear weapons. He should know better that it would – nay, will – lead to a nuclear holocaust or MAD, that is, mutually assured destruction. Putin will not survive to enjoy his $200 billion stashed away. It will be blown to radioactive smithereens.
Biden should be resolute in his dealings with Putin. He’s probably thinking what concessions he’d surrender in exchange for peace? He could do another “Afghanistan withdrawal” of American forces from Europe. Then he can announce to the whole world, “Friends, we have achieved peace for our time,” an eerie reminder of that fateful day on September 29, 1938, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Germany’s Adolf Hitler signed a peace treaty. The following day, he spoke from the window of 10 Downing Street: “My good friends. This is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds.”
But “Peace of our Time” lasted only six months. On March 15, 1939, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, which triggered World War II. The rest was history.
Are we seeing a repeat of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, this time perpetrated on the people of Ukraine? Is Biden going to sign a peace treaty with Vladimir Putin, to ensure that there will be “Peace of our Time” in Europe?
We need to remember what happened in December 1994, five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ukraine was left with the world’s third-largest nuclear stockpile. In a treaty known as the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine agreed to trade away its intercontinental ballistic missiles, warheads, and other nuclear infrastructure in exchange for guarantees that the three treaty signatories – the U.S., the U.K., and Russia — would “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”
The ICBM missiles with their nuclear warheads ended up in storage in Russia and supposed to remain secured.
With the imminent danger of Russian invasion, one wonders what happened to the guarantee that the three signatories of the Budapest Memorandum had given to Ukraine? Why don’t Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson invoke the terms of the Budapest Memorandum?
But all Biden could do was to tell Putin during a phone call, urging Russia not to invade Ukraine and warned Putin of “real costs” of doing so.
But the real problem was that Putin is demanding that NATO bars Ukraine from joining NATO. NATO said it’s not negotiable. Russia also demanded NATO withdraw its forces, hardware, and arms from countries that were not NATO members before 1997 – 14 countries – as part of security demands it is seeking from NATO. Heck, that’s about half the membership of NATO!
At the moment, the negotiations have reached an impasse. And it seems that the U.S. and its NATO allies would never agree to Putin’s unreasonable demands. So, what’s next?
Biden should – nay, must – demand that Putin make good to abide by the terms under the Budapest Memorandum. Or, is he like Hitler who reneged on the peace treaty he signed, the “Peace of our Time,” with Neville Chamberlain?
Is it déjà vu all over again?