Ukraine’s huge nuclear weapons blunder left it exposed: ‘Big mistake’

Ukraine: Tobias Ellwood comments on threat of Russian invasion

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Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said today it is “highly likely” that Russia will invade Ukraine. Ms Truss made the comment as she met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. She tweeted: “Met @jensstoltenberg @NATO. Diplomacy must be pursued but a Russian invasion of Ukraine looks highly likely. “The UK and allies are stepping up preparations for the worst case scenario. We must make the cost for Russia intolerably high.”

Russian military have been engaging in drills near the border with Ukraine, seen by many as an escalation of the situation in Eastern Europe.

However, Ukraine’s vulnerability to Russia’s sizable armed forces may have been avoided if it were not for a 1994 agreement that saw Ukraine give up its extensive nuclear arsenal.

Ukraine officially declared itself an independent country in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

At the time, Kiev possessed the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal, inheriting them after the break-up for the USSR, boasting more warheads than the UK, France and China combined.

Ukraine was in possession of an estimated 5,000 nuclear weapons, more than 170 intercontinental ballistic missiles and several dozen nuclear bombers.

However, Ukraine agreed in 1994 to dismantle its nuclear weapons, in return for a promise from Russia that it would not attack its neighbour.

Washington paid half a billion dollars for Ukraine to pass its nuclear weapons over to Russia to be dismantled after brokering the deal.

Recent years have put the agreement in the spotlight, however, as Moscow’s threat to its neighbour grows.

In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea.

The region remains a sticking point today, with Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy saying last week that his country “will not give up our land.”

After the invasion of Crimea in 2014, a Ukrainian member of Parliament said his country made a big mistake in giving up its weapons.

Pavlo Rizanenko said: “We gave up nuclear weapons because of this agreement. Now there’s a strong sentiment in Ukraine that we made a big mistake.”

Andriy Zahorodniuk, a former defence minister of Ukraine, echoed this sentiment in February.

He told the New York Times: “We gave away the capability for nothing.

“Now, every time somebody offers us to sign a strip of paper, the response is, ‘Thank you very much. We already had one of those some time ago.’”

Mariana Budjeryn, a Ukraine specialist at Harvard University, added: “The gist is, ‘We had the weapons, gave them up and now look what’s happening,’.

“On a policy level, I see no movement toward any kind of reconsideration. But on a popular level, that’s the narrative.

“Regret is part of it. The other part is whatever one feels as a result of being subjected to injustice.”


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Steven Pifer, a former US ambassador to Ukraine, also said that the West failed to take into account the rise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He said: “They’ve been fighting a low-grade war for eight years. You can’t find bullets in the stores. A lot of civilians are arming up.”

Russia hasn’t invaded Ukraine yet, but satellite images today show new deployments of Russian troops.

Troops and armoured equipment was moved to farms, forests and fields, with some sitting just 15 kilometres from the border with Ukraine.

The images, which were captured on Sunday, show “a change in the pattern of the previously observed deployments”.

Russian troops in Belarus numbering 30,000 were supposed to finish up military exercises on Sunday, but it was announced they would be extended as tensions continue to rumble.

The Kremlin’s extension will be seen as an ominous sign in Ukraine.

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