December 5, marks the 23rd anniversary of the signing of the Budapest Memorandum.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine inherited the world's third (after the US and Russia) nuclear arsenal.
Ukraine owned 220 units of strategic carriers: 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 44 heavy bombers equipped with more than a thousand nuclear long-range cruise missiles, as well as 1,240 warheads.
The United States and Russia categorically spoke against the preservation of Ukraine's nuclear potential. These countries pressed the Ukrainian government in every possible way, in exchange for guarantees of territorial integrity, to abandon nuclear potential. Otherwise, they threatened to isolate the country internationally.
But international political pressure did not become the main stimulus for the adoption of such an important decision for Ukraine. It was also taken into account that missiles had a range of more than 10,000 kilometers - they could destroy targets outside the Eurasian continent and could only be a threat to United States, which was one of the main political allies.
Another serious problem existed - warranty period of operation was running out in most missiles. Ukrainian missile experts could maintain warheads in working order, but the situation with nuclear charges was complicated. Nuclear charges were designed, manufactured and serviced by enterprises in Russia. Meanwhile, Ukraine had neither time nor resources to organize a full-fledged service and to extend the resource of charges. The situation was aggravated by the difficult economic situation in Ukraine, namely hyperinflation. As for Crimean peninsula, it was complicated, the pro-Russian separatists constantly tried to split the Crimea and Sevastopol from Ukraine.
In such circumstances, on December 5, 1994, the Budapest Memorandum was signed, according to which Ukraine received international guarantees of independence, preservation of sovereignty and approved state borders. Its guarantors were Russia, the United States, Great Britain, joined by France and China. They pledged to refrain from any manifestations of aggression against Ukraine – including the economic pressure.
On June 2, 1996, the country completely got rid of its nuclear status, and the export of warheads began.
All weapons were transported to the territory of the Russian Federation. In June 1996, the last nuclear warhead left Ukraine. But Russia transferred nuclear fuel for nuclear power plants, which returned after the processing of missiles. The final step in Ukraine's nuclear-free status was made in 2001. Then, the last silo-launcher of intercontinental SS-24 solid-fuel missiles was liquidated on the territory of the country.
As of today, Ukraine has returned to discussing the issue of restoring its nuclear status. Particularly acute the issue raised after the beginning of Russia's aggression in 2014 and the occupation of the Crimea, as well as parts of the Donbas. Participants in the discussions differed on whether the rejection of nuclear weapons was the right decision. After all, it serves as an important strategic factor. Armaments could better defend sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine then Russian promise.
"A country that does not own nuclear weapons, does not own its destiny". These words of the President of France are often remembered.
Many experts also argue that Russia, in violation of the Memorandum, not only put the world on the brink of new wars, slowed down the implementation of the disarmament policy, but also gave Ukraine the right to return nuclear weapons. However, given the economic situation in the country, this does not seem possible in the near future.