Former President Bill Clinton admitted in an interview Tuesday that he bears responsibility for Ukraine giving up nuclear warheads as a result of a decades-old agreement between Kyiv, the U.S., and Russia.
The former Democratic president told RTE Prime Time that had it not been for a 1994 agreement initiated by his administration to get nuclear weapons out of Ukraine, Russia likely would not have invaded the country last February.
“I feel a personal stake because I got them [Ukraine] to agree to give up their nuclear weapons. And none of them believe that Russia would have pulled this stunt if Ukraine still had their weapons,” Clinton said.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton regrets that he convinced the Ukrainian authorities to give up nuclear weapons in 1994. pic.twitter.com/RQOtFiu5dG
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) April 4, 2023
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Clinton signed an agreement with Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk in 1994, which removed the Soviet’s nuclear arsenal that remained in Ukraine. In a related agreement later that year, known as the Budapest Memorandum, the U.S., along with the U.K. and Russia, promised to respect Ukrainian territory after it agreed to hand over its nukes to Russia. That promise was broken when Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea in 2014 under the watch of the Obama administration.
Clinton told RTE that he “knew that President Putin did not support the agreement President Yeltsin made never to interfere with Ukraine’s territorial boundaries — an agreement he made because he wanted Ukraine to give up their nuclear weapons.”
Clinton added that Ukraine was “afraid” to give up its nuclear weapons, believing they were “the only thing that protected them from an expansionist Russia,” a fear that now appears even more credible. Clinton admitted that he feels “terrible” about the agreement that seemingly paved the way to a bloody war that has no end in sight.
In February, one year after Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine, U.K. intelligence estimated that more than 16,000 Ukrainian civilians had died as a result of the conflict, while the U.S. has estimated that civilian deaths could be up to 40,000. The U.S. also estimates that each side has suffered around 100,000 military casualties.
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The former president said that he believes the U.S. should continue to aid Ukraine in its fight against Russia until a peace agreement that’s favorable to the Ukrainians can be reached.
“I think what Mr. Putin did was very wrong, and I believe Europe and the United States should continue to support Ukraine. There may come a time when the Ukrainian government believes that they can think of a peace agreement they could live with, but I don’t think the rest of us should cut and run on them.”