Korobov: U.S. should ensure Ukrainian sovereignty


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I was only 2 years old when my parents and I boarded a plane and headed to America.

We had just left our apartment in Kharkov, Ukraine, a place my family had called home for as long as anyone could remember. It was 1994, and while I was way too young to understand what this new life would mean for me, serious changes were happening in the country I had just left.

By this point, Ukraine had been independent from the Soviet Union for five years and had the third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world. That year, a conference took place in Budapest, Hungary, that led to the Budapest Memorandum, which was signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation. The agreement stated that Ukraine would give up its nuclear arsenal for a security assurance by the signing parties.

A denuclearized Ukraine meant a safer Europe, and with the protection of three military superpowers, what could go wrong?

When I read this weekend that Ukraine Defense Minister Valery Heletey had said that NATO had started to deliver weaponry to Ukraine, I was thrilled. In truth though, it is too little too late.

Immediately, his statement was rejected by the United States as well as five other NATO members.
It is without question that Russia has violated Ukraine’s sovereignty both through the annexation of Crimea and in its support of pro-Russian rebels. The act is a direct breach of the Budapest Memorandum, which it signed.

No one wants World War III, and President Obama’s economic sanctions have surely had some impact. The Russian ruble is sitting at a record low. However, the United States owes Ukraine more than sanctions alone. Putting aside contractual obligations, there is a moral argument to be made here. We are not coming to the aid of a country that voluntarily made itself vulnerable to invasion.

What kind of message does this send to the world about our credibility, and how can we expect other countries to trust us in the future?

This failure to honor our commitments emboldens our enemies. Ukrainian politician and former chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov wrote in Time that, “as long as Putin moves from victory to victory without resistance, he gains more support.” The United States cannot set a precedent of allowing countries to blatantly violate international laws and agreements.

While there is little I remember from my upbringing in Ukraine, the stories my parents and grandparents tell me are frightening. They talk of long lines to get the most basic groceries, starvation, and poverty —  all concepts that I have been fortunate enough to never experience during my life here. I will be forever thankful to America for providing me the opportunities and quality of life I have become accustomed to.

I grew up believing that this new country that my family now resides in is the leader in preserving good and righteousness in the world. I still believe that today.

The United States must stick to its principles. It must stand hand in hand with Ukrainians in supporting them and ensuring their sovereignty through any means possible.

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