The Important Role of Ukraine in Reaching a Nuclear Ban

Over a week has passed since two historic moments took place. On Friday July 7th, Putin and Trump met for the first time in person at the G20 meeting in Germany. Meanwhile, the United Nations voted nearly unanimously in favor for the nuclear ban treaty, which mainstream media has covered very little of. While these moments show some promise for peace and stability, there is one prominent issue that poses a barrier to reaching our goals of a total nuclear ban: Ukraine.

In Spring 2015 the United States started the Joint Multinational Training Group in Ukraine, offering training and services to the Ukrainian military. According to the United States Army in Europe, the U.S. will continue to advise and train the Ukrainian military until 2020. This initiative took place over a year after violent fighting erupted in eastern Ukraine, a gruesome conflict that has been considered a proxy war between the United States and Russia. For the past three years there has been bipartisan congressional support for providing Ukraine with lethal aid, but attempts have thus far been halted. The U.S. has continued to provide support in the form of training and non-lethal aid.

While these trainings continue to occur, a total nuclear ban is not possible. Until the U.S. and Russia start working together and focus their attention on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), smaller nuclear weapon states will continue to hold onto their arsenal. In October 2016 Putin announced that Russia would be leaving the New START treaty due to hostile actions on Russia by the U.S.; it is clear that the  threat of nuclear proliferation and a rise of conflict will continue to exist, unless the U.S. and Russia start to cooperate. This is why Ukraine is such an important piece of attempts to reach global stability.

Ukraine has an ancient and complex past. The handful of shifting border changes and influence from neighboring regimes is what makes this country such a conflicted and split state, as we see it today. Post-soviet economic and political instability made Ukraine vulnerable to outside influence and domestic corruption, and the current crisis that continues to unfold is a perfect example of this.

Internal issues within Ukraine have influenced U.S. and Russian foreign policy at an alarming pace since late 2013. In just under four years, the U.S. has continuously slammed Russia with sanctions, ignoring the growing rise of fascism within Ukraine. Russian and American leaders have failed to agree on the Ukrainian crisis, which has provoked Cold War thinking and rationale in the west. Such thinking leads to dangerous consequences, not just for the civilians in Ukraine, but for the entire world.

It is unwise to assume that Putin and Trump are not likely to “push the button” which could lead to a nuclear war. As the anniversary of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki approach, it is important to remember that a world leader did just that 72 years ago. In order to avoid a new catastrophe, the crisis in Ukraine must be approached from a lens of understanding and cooperation, rather than through hostility.

There are a few things you can do to push U.S.-Russian collaboration on Ukraine and efforts to reach a total nuclear ban:

  • Contact your state representatives and voice your concern for the new bill on Russian sanctions
  • Expand your perspective on the conflict in Ukraine by learning about its relationship with neighboring countries, and how this affects domestic and foreign policies.
  • Support the United Nations Nuclear Ban treaty by attending or planning talks or events, and learn how you can contribute to the movement.