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  • Jocelyn Reekie


One Possible Way to Help Ukraine

On Sunday, March 6, CBC’s Cross Country Checkup guest Denis Thompson, former major-general with the Canadian Armed Forces, responded to questions about why NATO countries don’t just take Putin on, head to head, with the caution about the possibility of nuclear war, and Jane Boulden, political science professor at Queen’s University and Royal Military College, echoed that.

Listeners were also told by the retired military guest that war criminals (which it was made clear Putin and commanders of the Russian forces that have invaded Ukraine are) could be tried—but only years after the war ends; only if Russia hands them over, and only if Ukraine is the winner of that war.

A couple of people brought up the 1994 Budapest Memoranduma memorandum that was originally signed by the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States when Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan surrendered their nuclear weapons and potential nuclear-weapon-making materials to Russia.

The memorandum included: security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. As a result of other agreements and the memorandum, between 1993 and 1996, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons.

…Russia, the US and the UK confirmed their recognition of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine becoming parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and effectively abandoning their nuclear arsenal to Russia and that they agreed to the following:

  1. Respect Belarusian, Kazakh and Ukrainian independence and sovereignty in the existing borders.

  2. Refrain from the threat or the use of force against Belarus, Kazakhstan or Ukraine.

  3. Refrain from using economic pressure on Belarus, Kazakhstan or Ukraine to influence their politics.

  4. Seek immediate Security Council action to provide assistance to Belarus, Kazakhstan or Ukraine if they "should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used".

  5. Refrain from the use of nuclear arms against Belarus, Kazakhstan or Ukraine.

  6. Consult with one another if questions arise regarding those commitments.

The above italicized text is copied from

After the invasion and annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, Canada, along with France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States said that Russian involvement was a breach of its Budapest Memorandum. Putin replied that the situation in Crimea was a revolution: “a new state arises, but with this state and in respect to this state, we have not signed any obligatory documents".

In spite of the assurances by the U.S., the U.K. and RUSSIA in the Budapest Memorandum that Ukraine would retain its sovereignty and existing boundaries, and the fact that several powerful countries recognized Russia’s takeover of Crimea as an illegal act and a breach of the memorandum, NO ONE IS assuring or guaranteeing the sovereignty of Ukraine and the sanctity of its boundaries today. While Russia bombs Ukrainian cities and invades Ukraine territory with troops on the ground; knocks out Ukraine’s communication abilities; weaponizes migration by causing millions of Ukrainians to flee their homes and flood into neighboring countries and thus tax those countries’ resources; knocks out and silences all protest from within Russia itself to the invasion of Ukraine, we offer economic sanctions against the aggressor, and humanitarian aid and military weapons that may or may not be able to be delivered to a people under siege. Putin’s forces are murdering innocent people while the world stands back because leaders of the countries who claim to be Ukraine’s friends fear Vladimir Putin is just amoral or insane enough to launch nuclear weapons against anyone who supports Ukraine with any kind of actual, or perceived, military action.

In Russia, state propaganda proclaiming Russia is saving; not attacking Ukraine, and legislative and military repression against protesters are working to silence all protests against Putin’s actions by his own people. Chris Brown, a reporter who was once based in Russia and is now in Ukraine was also a brief guest on the March 6 episode of Cross Country Checkup. He said he was talking to a woman in Poland with a Ukrainian mother and Russian father. The woman fled Ukraine with her family because two Russian missiles landed very close to their home and destroyed the places they landed on. But when she called her father, who is in Russia, to tell him what had happened he didn’t believe her. He said she should not be afraid because Russian forces were coming to save Ukraine from attack by the Nazis.

Brown then made a simple suggestion that made sense to me. With communication to the Russian people via television, newspaper, internet and radio from anyone but the State being knocked out in Russia, anyone with ties to people in Russia could perhaps pick up the phone and call them and speak to them directly about what’s really happening in Ukraine.

In thinking about that, I wondered: might there be enough calls to inspire so many Russians to flood the streets to protest the war that Putin’s strategies will not be able to keep the truth from his own people? Might Russia then live up to its promise to assure the borders and sovereignty of an independent Ukraine because the Russian people—including the military—would cease to believe and to follow Putin?

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