Eurasia Center Director John Herbst cowrites for Huffington Post on on how the US ought to look to past agreements for guidance on how to respond to current Russian aggression in Ukraine:
With thousands of regular Russian troops in Ukraine and tens of thousands massed on the border, the danger of further Kremlin aggression in Ukraine is high. America must work urgently with its European allies to find a stronger and more effective response to deter this threat. Based on strategic analysis and long diplomatic experience, we offer here three basic principles that should guide America’s response to this international crisis.
First, we recommend that America should meaningfully recognize its obligations to Ukraine under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.
In this agreement, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom committed to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in exchange for Ukraine’s relinquishment of the Soviet nuclear weapons in its territory. The cause of nuclear nonproliferation will suffer throughout the world if American security assurances, which were offered in exchange for a country giving up nuclear weapons, are subsequently found worthless when the country faces aggression. We want the world to see that Ukraine’s peaceful surrender of nuclear weapons has earned it access to conventional weapons when it truly needs them to defend its borders.
America should make clear that its assistance under the Budapest Memorandum involves delivery of defensive weapons because Ukraine’s borders were violated and further aggression is looming. Such assistance would be provided immediately and could include anti-armor, anti-aircraft, anti-missile and intelligence-gathering equipment. Such assistance would raise the price of a possible grab by the Kremlin or its surrogates for the port city of Mariupol or for additional territory in the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts. Mr. Putin is very vulnerable here. Polls by Moscow’s Levada Center over the past few months show that over two-thirds of the Russian people do not want Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine. The United States should inform Moscow that the flow of such equipment would stop once Russia fully implements its commitments under the Minsk process: withdraws Russian fighters (regular soldiers and “volunteers”) and military equipment from Ukraine; and respects Kyiv’s full control of the Donbass, including its side of the Russia-Ukraine border.