Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said in an interview with RTE television that he regretted his role in convincing Ukraine to give up nuclear weapons in 1994. In his view, if Kyiv now had a nuclear deterrent, Russia would not have started an armed conflict (Kommersant article from April 5). Clinton said that Russia would not have gone “to that trick if Ukraine still had their weapons”.
January 14, 1994 the presidents of Russia, U.S. and Ukraine – Boris Yeltsin, Bill Clinton and Leonid Kravchuk – signed a trilateral statement in which they confirmed the readiness of Kyiv to deactivate nuclear weapons that had been on Ukrainian territory since Soviet times. On December 5 of the same year, the leaders of Russia, the United States, Ukraine, and Great Britain signed a memorandum in Budapest, according to which Russia pledged to respect Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and existing borders.
Kyiv, in turn, pledged to hand over its remaining nuclear weapons to Russia. According to Clinton, he knew that Vladimir Putin did not support the provisions of the Budapest memorandum obliging Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty. Kyiv believed that only nuclear weapons could protect the country from “expansionist Russia”, so the Ukrainian authorities were afraid to give them up, the former president said. Clinton said that when it became convenient for him, President Putin violated the Budapest Memorandum and took Crimea first. He believes that the U.S. and Europe should continue to support Ukraine and should not rush its authorities to conclude a peace agreement with Russia.
As Kommersant wrote, Clinton said in April 2022 that he suggested that Russian Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin join NATO. In February 2023, the U.S. National Security Archive (a nongovernmental organization) published a transcript of the conversation between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin on January 23, 1993, which referred to the close cooperation between the countries.