“It’s a huge tragedy,” said Rose Gottemoeller, who negotiated the New START arms control treaty with Russia and now works at Stanford University. “Putin is so engulfed in his own grievances that he doesn’t remember how closely we worked together – Americans, Ukrainians and Russians – to secure his nuclear arsenal. The disintegration of the Soviet Union did not lead to the creation of three new nuclear-armed states.
In fact, Mr. Putin is now using the key agreement from that era, known as the Budapest Memorandum, to bolster his case. The Memorandum of Understanding – signed by Ukraine, the United States, Great Britain and Russia – vindicated the central agreement: Ukraine would hand over all of its remaining nuclear arsenal, in exchange for three countries. All other countries will ensure the security of Ukraine and the integrity of the border. . (While Ukraine has control over the weapons, the right to launch them remains in the hands of the Russians.)
However, the memo never detailed what that security entailed, and made no promise of military support in the event of an attack. But Mr. Putin blatantly violated that agreement by annexing Crimea in 2014 and again on Monday when he recognition of two breakaway republicsbasically declare that they are no longer part of Ukraine.
This week, he said he was extremely excited that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, had publicly spoken about reviewing the memo. Mr. Zelensky’s claim, made at the Munich Security Conference last weekend, that “assurance” proves no guarantee against a state with Russian coercive power.
Putin argued that if Ukraine were to question the memorandum, it must want its own nuclear arsenal.
“We believe that Ukraine’s words are aimed at us,” Putin said at a press conference on Tuesday with the president of Azerbaijan. “And we heard them. They have extensive nuclear capacity from the Soviet era, the nuclear industry flourishes, they have schools, everything they need to move quickly.”
Perhaps realizing he might be over-describing the threat, Putin said: “They don’t have one thing – a uranium enrichment program. But that’s a technical question. For Ukraine, that’s not a problem; it’s easy to solve it. ”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/us/politics/putin-ukraine-nuclear-weapons.html Putin turns to conspiracy theory that Ukraine is on the path to nuclear weapons