Bill Clinton voices remorse for pushing Ukraine to ditch its nuclear weapons

Joe Biden
Former President Bill Clinton speaks during an event with President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, to mark the 30th Anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Clinton signed the FMLA into law 30 years ago. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh/AP

Bill Clinton voices remorse for pushing Ukraine to ditch its nuclear weapons

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Former President Bill Clinton expressed remorse over his role in pressuring Ukraine to relinquish its nuclear warheads in the 1990s.

In 1994, the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom signed an agreement with Ukraine as part of the Budapest Memorandum, in which Kyiv agreed to cede its Soviet-era nuclear stockpile in exchange for security guarantees. Clinton speculated the war in Ukraine would not have taken place if Kyiv did not ditch its nuclear weapons.

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“I feel a personal stake because I got them to agree to give up their nuclear weapons. And none of them believe that Russia would have pulled this stunt if Ukraine still had their weapons,” Clinton told Irish news outlet RTE Prime Time.

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During negotiations for the Budapest Memorandum, U.S. foreign policy was dominated by the conviction that Washington needed to make overtures to Russia in the wake of the USSR collapse.

Clinton sought to court Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who played a key role in the USSR’s demise. Yeltsin was eventually ousted in a corruption scandal and succeeded by Putin.

“I knew that President Putin did not support the agreement President Yeltsin made never to interfere with Ukraine’s territorial boundaries,” Clinton added. “[Ukrainians] were afraid to give them up because they thought that’s the only thing that protected them from an expansionist Russia.”

At the time, Ukraine passed an estimated 1,700 Soviet nuclear weapons but lacked operational control over them, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Last year, Putin issued a hair-raising threat vowing to defend the “territorial integrity of our motherland” by “all the means at our disposal.” His statement was widely interpreted as a nuclear threat. In addition to the Feb. 24, 2022, invasion, Putin annexed Crimea in 2014.

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When the invasion commenced, a Ukrainian member of parliament argued that foreign powers reneged on their security guarantees in the 1994 agreement. Clinton stressed that the West must continue to stand by Ukraine.

“I think what Mr. Putin did was very wrong, and I believe Europe and the United States should continue to support Ukraine. There may come a time when the Ukrainian government believes that they can think of a peace agreement they could live with, but I don’t think the rest of us should cut and run on them,” he said.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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