In 1994, France refused to offer security guarantees to Ukraine in exchange for denuclearization

Late French president Mitterrand suspected the Russians wouldn’t stick to their Budapest Memorandum obligations anyway. He was right.

Russia has signaled that it is ready for peace negotiations with Ukraine and Kyiv’s Western allies are weighing the pressuring President Volodimir Zelenski into reaching a deal with Moscow.

Everybody understands that any truce with the Kremlin will be temporary and the Russians will use the pause to rearm themselves and prepare for a bigger conflict, possibly even challenging NATO.

The Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, is not trustworthy and will breach the agreement at any convenient moment, says Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s former defense minister and one of the negotiators. 

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He believes that the promises made by Putin are not worth even the paper they are written on, giving, as an example, the failed Minsk agreements after the Russian-led insurrection in Donbas and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

But a better example is the 1994 Budapest Memorandum which Russia signed along with the United States and the United Kingdom – a document supposed to offer security guarantees to Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders. 

“They [Russians] may sign documents, but whether they keep to agreements is another matter.

Remember the Budapest Memorandum,” Reznikov (pictured abovetold the press.

The Ukrainian official recollected a meeting with former president Leonid Kuchma, who had tried to persuade the then French president François Mitterrand to join the security mechanism for Ukraine in return for the young republic’s denuclearization. 

“French President Mitterrand refused to add his signature to [this] document … and warned our president [Leonid Kuchma], ‘Young man, they will trick you.’ Kuchma told me this story. After 30 years, the Russians did just that — they tricked us,” Reznikov stated.

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The same fear was shared by the U.S. and U.K. negotiators but the need to get rid of the nuclear arsenal in Ukraine prevailed.

Overall, Ukraine sent to Russia 1,900 strategic warheads, 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles, and 44 strategic bombers in the following years, and signed the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. 

In 2023, former U.S. president Bill Clinton expressed regrets for persuading Ukraine to give up its nuclear arsenal.

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