“I believe that we, as the West, have the right to give Ukraine nuclear warheads,” says Radoslaw Sikorski.
On 19 February, just days before Russia kicked off its special operation to ‘demilitarize’ Ukraine, President Zelensky threatened to revise Kiev’s non-nuclear status. Weeks later, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service said it had information that Ukraine was already working on nuclear weapons, and that Washington was aware of Kiev’s activities.
Polish European Parliament lawmaker Radoslaw Sikorski has proposed giving Ukraine nuclear weapons so that the country can properly “defend its independence.”
“Ukraine is known to have given up its [Soviet-era] nuclear potential after the signature of the Budapest Memorandum in 1994. Everyone at the time understood that Ukraine would be an independent country within the borders established in Soviet days, even though the Russians and some others say there were no such guarantees. But since Russia has violated this Budapest Memorandum, I believe that we, as the West, have the right to give Ukraine nuclear warheads,” Sikorski said, speaking to Ukraine’s Espreso TV on Saturday night.
The lawmaker, who previously served as Poland’s defence and foreign minister, and speaker of parliament, and who is married to influential US neocon opinion maker Anne Applebaum, also commented on Western fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin might use nuclear weapons if the situation in Ukraine spills over to directly involve NATO.
“I don’t think Putin will dare attack NATO territory with nuclear weapons. Apart from rhetoric, I don’t see any preparations in this direction at the moment. Russia has several thousand tactical warheads stored at specially-prepared depots, and we and the alliance are monitoring this situation 24 hours a day,” Sikorski said. He also claimed that Russian generals would be tempted to overthrow Putin if he gave the use strategic weapons.
Signed on 5 December 1994 by Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the United Kingdom, the Budapest Memorandum guaranteed Kiev’s security in exchange for its renunciation of nuclear weapons.
Following the Soviet collapse in 1991, Ukraine inherited about one third of the USSR’s massive strategic arsenal, including some 1,700 warheads, and the means to deliver them thanks to Soviet-built rocketry design bureaus and factories. However, the launch codes for the existing weapons remained in Russia’s hands throughout the time they were possessed by Kiev. Ukraine gave the nukes up after signing the Budapest Memorandum, with the last of the armaments leaving Ukrainian soil in the mid-1990s.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on 19 February, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he would be initiating consultations under the Budapest Memorandum, and implied that his country may revise its non-nuclear status.
Before Zelensky, other Ukrainian officials, including Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk, warned that Ukraine could become a nuclear-armed state again if it wasn’t accepted into NATO.
Putin cited Zelensky’s declaration about nukes in his 24 February speech announcing the start of the military operation in Ukraine. “If we look at the sequence of events and the incoming reports, the showdown between Russia and [Ukrainian and allied] forces cannot be avoided. It is only a matter of time. They are getting ready and waiting for the right moment. Moreover, they went as far as to aspire to acquire nuclear weapons. We will not let this happen,” he said.
In early March, Sergey Naryshkin, chief of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, revealed that his agency had intelligence that Ukraine is working on a nuclear weapon, and said that in addition to Russia, the US also knows about this, and could even be helping Kiev in the weapon’s development.