Staunton, February 7 –Putin advisor Sergey Glazyev yesterday suggested that the 1994 Budapest Memorandum makes Russia and the US guarantors of “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and speaking openly [requires them] to get involved when conflict situations of this type arise.”
Glazyev invoked the document during the course of an interview published in “Kommersant Ukraina” yesterday in order to denounce the United States for what he said was its “crude” and “unilateral” interference in Ukrainian domestic affairs, saying Washington could do so only in conjunction with Moscow (kommersant.ua/doc/2400532).
Unfortunately, there may be a more sinister side to Glazyev’s words. In an Ekho Moskvy post today, Andrey Illarionov says that Glazyev’s interpretation not only is at odds with the words of the Budapest Memorandum itself but suggest that at least some in the Kremlin may be looking for “a legal basis for intervention” in Ukraine (echo.msk.ru/blog/aillar/1253844-echo/).
Illarionov notes that he “cannot find in the text of the Memorandum,” signed by the presidents of the Russian Federation, the United States and Ukraine and the prime minister of the United Kingdom, any suggestion that the US and Russia have a right or a responsibility, as Glazyev suggested, to intervene to defend “the territorial integrity and security of Ukraine.”
Instead, the December 1994 text clearly indicates that the signatories undertook “obligations of an entirely different character – [specifically] not to interfere in Ukraine.” Rhetorically asking whether he might have missed something, Illarionov notes that paragraph two of the memorandum does mention one possibility in this regard.
That paragraph specifies that the sides can act in self-defense “in correspondence with the UN Charter.” But to invoke that, Russia would have to argue that it was defending itself against “threats (attacks) on or from the territory of Ukraine.”
As Illarionov notes, there is an obvious candidate for the place where such “threats” could appear – Sevastopol where Russia has a naval base and where Moscow may be in a position to provoke the situation and thus invoke the UN Charter on self-defense. More disturbingly, the Moscow analyst continues, Stavropol is quite possibly “not the only one.”
If Illarionov is right, this Russian misreading of the Budapest Memorandum not only could easily make the situation in Ukraine even more dangerous and explosive but also, in the absence of clear signals from the West that such an interpretation is wrong, mean that the latter might find it more difficult to object to a Russian move against Ukraine.