Does the U.S. have an obligation to protect Ukraine?

Published: Feb. 24, 2022 at 10:42 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2022 at 10:46 PM EST
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(WHSV) - Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of “consequences never seen in history” if the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) retaliated against Russia for their invasion of Ukraine. Does the U.S. have an obligation to defend Ukraine and counter Russia?

Dr. Bernd Kaussler, a political science professor at James Madison University said the U.S. technically does not have to do anything by law since Ukraine is not in NATO.

“It’s not a treaty obligation. A treaty obligation... Article 5 under NATO means by law the U.S. has to come to the aid of NATO countries. Last time NATO did that was after 9/11,” said Kaussler.

There are treaties and there are agreements and the two differ from each other.

The U.S. did make a deal in 1994 with Ukraine, known as the Budapest Agreement. Ukraine actually had the third-largest nuclear weapons stockpile. This was because the newly-founded Ukraine ended up with the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons in their territory after the Soviet Union collapsed.

This agreement meant that Ukraine would destroy the weapons and the U.S., United Kingdom (U.K.), and Russia would guarantee Ukraine staying secure. This, however, is not a treaty.

“The Iran nuclear deal was an agreement, just like the Budapest Agreement in 1994. So, the next president can just no longer honor it. That’s exactly what Trump did with the Iran nuclear deal. If it’s a treaty, it’s law and you cannot revoke it,” said Kaussler.

If Russia were to invade a NATO country like Poland, the U.S. would have to respond under law.

Dr. Kaussler said Putin’s threat was to project a “mad man image,” which he believes is the ultimate deterrence to discourage the U.S. from taking action against Russia.

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