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Does the “Budapest Memorandum” Treaty Signed In 1994 Commit U.S., Britain To Defend Ukraine?

Written By : Dustin Siggins
March 1, 2014

According to one former ambassador, yes:

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Sir Tony Brenton, who served as British Ambassador from 2004 to 2008, said that war could be an option ‘if we do conclude the [Budapest] Memorandum is legally binding.’

It promises to protect Ukraine’s borders, in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons.

Kiev has demanded the agreement is activated after insisting their borders had been violated.

In response Mr Brenton said in a BBC radio interview: ‘If indeed this is a Russian invasion of Crimea and if we do conclude the [Budapest] Memorandum is legally binding then it’s very difficult to avoid the conclusion that we’re going to go to war with Russia’.

Ukraine accused Russia of a ‘military invasion and occupation’, saying Russian troops have taken up positions around a coast guard base and two airports on its strategic Crimea peninsula.

However, TheBlaze reports things aren’t so black and white:

There will surely be much debate over whether the Budapest Memorandum is a legally binding agreement requiring action. The U.S. going to war with Russia is likely a last resort for the Obama administration.

According to rferl.org, the Budapest Memorandum is a diplomatic memorandum, not an official treaty.

Barry Kellman, a professor of law and director of the International Weapons Control Center at DePaul University’s College of Law, told the website that the answers to questions about whether the agreement is binding are “complex.”

“That’s actually a much more complex question than it may sound. It is binding in international law, but that doesn’t mean it has any means of enforcement,” he said.

“The ‘Budapest Memorandum’ follows the Helsinki Final Act and essentially reiterates its provisions. There are confidence building measures and then a host of other broader obligations – primarily negative obligations. Don’t interfere,” the professor added.

It appears that Russia is — not shockingly in the slightest — making some aggressive military actions, but this Memorandum likely doesn’t require U.S. involvement. The question of whether we should interfere, of course, is another question entirely. As is the question of whether Obama is willing to do so if necessary.

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