Position on the Conflict in Ukraine

The Council for a Livable World and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation have long considered civil relations between the United States and Russia as essential to our mission to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and to eliminate the risk of nuclear war. During the Cold War, we supported arms control treaties beginning with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty through the Start treaties. With the end of the Soviet Union, we have focused on programs to reduce the nuclear materials in Russia and to eliminate nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. We consider Nunn-Lugar funding for the elimination of fissile material on the territory of the former Soviet Union to have been one of the best investments the United Congress has ever made in our national security and for a safer world.

In the post cold war world, US-Russian cooperation is not only important in order to reduce the nuclear stockpiles of the two countries but also to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries. Without Russian cooperation in adopting and enforcing sanctions and without its active diplomacy, there would be little prospect of a nuclear deal with Iran and no pressure on North Korea to bring it back to the negotiating table.

We are therefore very concerned about the sharp deterioration in US-Russian relations following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military involvement in support of rebels in Eastern Ukraine. Responsibility for this state of affairs falls almost entirely on Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Government. Russia’s annexation of Crimea violates the most fundamental principle of post 1945 peace: namely that one state cannot forcibly annex the territory of another. Russia’s military involvement in Eastern Ukraine violates Ukraine’s sovereignty and has cost thousands of lives.

In responding to this crisis created by Russia, the United States must adopt policies that are effective in pressuring Russia to reconsider its Ukraine policies and which do not undermine other US national security objectives. We support sanctions imposed on Russia and certain Russians by the United States and the European Union. We support humanitarian programs to help Ukrainians displaced by the fighting and financial aid to the new government in Kiev.

We oppose proposals to provide US weapons to Ukraine. Greater US military involvement in the conflict at this time is more likely to lead Russia to escalate its involvement on the rebel side than it is to deter further Russian military involvement. Under present circumstances, a US decision to provide weapons to Kiev will see more Ukrainians killed without doing anything to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity. There is no military solution to the conflict and any escalation in the fighting will make a diplomatic solution much more difficult. Sending US arms to Ukraine will certainly lead to a further deterioration in US-Russia relations and may jeopardize nuclear non-proliferation efforts with regard to Iran and North Korea, as well as efforts to combat ISIL in Syria and Iraq while doing nothing for Ukraine.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine are deplorable and a clear violation of international law. The Council applauds President Obama’s strong statement of support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine and endorses long-standing US policy in favor of the territorial integrity of Georgia. However, we urge the President to make clear that the United States has no intention of offering NATO membership to either country. As a practical matter, it is inconceivable that the United States would commit its armed forces to the defense of Eastern Ukraine, Crimea, or the breakaway regions of Georgia, making NATO membership an empty gesture. NATO enlargement will exacerbate Russian perceptions of insecurity in Europe while doing nothing to help Ukraine or Georgia.