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Umbrellas (of the missile kind)

May 21, 2015

A long time ago, an entry appeared here raising the issue of non-proliferation, missiles, nuclear warheads, and all that stuff that gets lumped together under the heading of “deterrents”, for a Ukrainian nation outside of any military alliance, and with little to no chance of being allowed entry into the military alliance of its choice any time soon – if ever.

(If you have the time do click on the link within the above link to the 107 pages of archived correspondence relating to Israel and its notorious “ambiguity” – fascinating reading!)

More recently another entry appeared referencing the Ukrainian ability to arm itself – at least for the most part.

Only a few days ago, in the event of stopping the rot, managing to reverse the situation in The Donbas (leaving aside very difficult Crimean issue for the time being), thus international norms and territorial integrity eventually returning for Ukraine, the question was posed “Once (and if) saved, what then to avoid a repeat in the future?”  How indeed?

It is an incredibly difficult task to reform a nation in an environment that does not provide it security whilst attempting to so.

Related to all three entries above, yesterday Oleksandr Turchynov, the Ukrainian NSDC Secretary let it be known that Ukraine has embarked – quite rightly – on a missile defence programme.  “We are strengthening border defense against the aggressor. In addition, without violating international agreements, we are restoring our missile shield, the main task of which is defense against the aggression of the Russian Federation.”  

In the absence of any other “inclusive” security guarantees Ukraine has no other choice – and it is very capable of producing its own independent missile defence programme.  Independent, however, may not be enough, as Mr Truchynov, perhaps unwisely at this juncture, goes on to state.

“In order to actually confront the madmen who threatens powerful nuclear potential in the world, the efforts of our country is not enough.  We need interaction and systematic coordination of all leading countries of the world.  This should be a set of economic, political and military measures.  In particular, and strengthen the common system of defense against the nuclear threat and deploy additional missile positions.”

That Ukraine is pursuing a missile, perhaps, was as far as public statements needed to go – if indeed there was a need for Ukraine to announce the resumption of a missile defence programme at all.  Perhaps there was a need if Ukraine thought the Kremlin would “out” such a programme soon with all the accompanying negative inferences, thus it better to announce it yourself and frame the issue first.

However, in stating far more than was perhaps necessary, there appears to be an appeal to shelter under somebody’s (nuclear) umbrella.  If so, whose?  Some form of cleverly manipulated EU CSDP arrangement per Article 7 of the ratified EU Association Agreement?  That seems highly unlikely given the EU Member States are yet to define what the CSDP actually is.  Bilaterally with the French?  The UK?  The US?  The Chinese?  Israel?  NATO – without joining?  If Mr Turchynov is to be believed, then Ukraine is not working on its own nuclear deterrent, for to do so is in breach of the international agreements he states Ukraine is not breaching whilst restoring its (conventional) missile shield.

How then to interpret “strengthen the common system of defense against the nuclear threat and deploy additional missile positions.”?  Does that require or infer “foreign” missiles or technical systems on Ukrainian soil?

The Kremlin seems to think so, being extremely swift in its response yesterday “If he (Turchynov) has in mind that Ukraine is planning to deploy elements of the American missile defense system on its territory this can only be perceived negatively.  For it will be a threat to the Russian Federation.  In case of deployment of elements of the American missile defense system in Ukraine, Russia will take retaliatory measures to ensure its own security.” – Dmitriy Peskov

If there was a need to now disclose the Ukrainian renewal of its missile defence programme, was there a need to say any more, whether conversations with “leading nations” over missile issues had taken place, are taking place, or are simply desirable?

Does it not now place any capable nations in a position of having to confirm, deny, or publicly make “no comment” for the record when asked – entirely unnecessarily?  Lethal defensive arms currently seems a bridge too far for “the West”, let alone incorporating Ukraine into some for of “missile umbrella”.

Does it not play to the Kremlin propaganda machine and reinforce its messaging – particularly to the Russian domestic audience?

In the meantime, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk announced that Ukraine had severed military-technical agreements with Russia – an act that will have (even if short term) effects on Russian missile production.

Nevertheless, the question of a few days ago still stands regarding Ukraine’s future security – “Once (and if) saved, what then to avoid a repeat in the future?”

Though Lenin stated “Probe with a bayonet; if you meet steel, stop.  If you meet mush, then push.”,  that doesn’t negate the fact that further probing will occur, despite any large quantities of steel that Ukraine, alone, can produce.

“Statesmen are not called upon only to settle easy questions.  These often settle themselves.  It is where the balance quivers, and proportions are veiled in mist, that the opportunity for world-saving presents itself.”  Winston Churchill.

As a woolly worded Budapest Memorandum II is not going to be easily digested by the Ukrainian public as any form of assurance again, clearly more meaningful guarantees will be pursued.  The question is whether there are statesmen of courage prepared to provide such.

Currently, to play on the words of Sting, “It’s a big enough umbrella, but it’s always Ukraine that ends up getting wet.”

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