By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
“At last year’s Nuclear Security Summit, both President [Viktor] Yanukovych and President Obama vowed to work together to prevent proliferation and to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials,” Clinton said at a September 26 briefing in New York.
“And, in fact, President Yanukovych announced Ukraine’s decision to get rid of all of its stocks of highly enriched uranium by March 2012, when the next Nuclear Security Summit will convene,” she added.
Clinton and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko signed an agreement on nuclear security cooperation on the sidelines of the opening session of the 66th U.N. General Assembly in New York. The agreement makes formal an intent to fully implement the commitment made by the two presidents in 2010 to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the means to make them, and to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials, a senior State Department official said.
Yanukovych pledged to get rid of Ukraine’s highly enriched uranium, which is a crucial component used in the making of nuclear weapons, by the time of the next security summit in Seoul, South Korea, March 26–27, 2012, the senior official said.
At the first Nuclear Security Summit April 12–13, 2010, President Obama said nuclear weapons are not just an issue for the United States and Russia, which hold the largest stockpiles, but are a threat to the common security of all nations.
Leaders from more than 47 nations and international organizations had gathered in Washington to discuss steps to secure vulnerable nuclear weapons and the means to make them. It was the culmination of days of nuclear diplomacy that began with the United States issuing a revamped nuclear strategy April 6 and the signing of a new arms-reduction treaty between the United States and Russia April 8 at ceremonies in Prague, Czech Republic.
The president first proposed the summit in an April 2009 speech in Prague where he outlined his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear threats. In Prague, Obama called for a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world, break up black markets, detect and intercept materials in transit, and use financial tools to disrupt illicit trade in nuclear materials and technologies.
Under the agreement signed by Clinton and Gryshchenko, the United States expects to provide $60 million to help Ukraine dispose of its highly enriched uranium, the State Department official said. “Specifically, we’ll be providing financial and technical assistance to help with the elimination of highly enriched uranium and to help modernize Ukraine’s civil nuclear research facilities,” the official said.
The aim is to operate its civil facilities using safer low-enrichment uranium fuel, Clinton said.
Gryshchenko said, “We are working together to relieve Ukraine of the burden of having highly enriched uranium in the time when low-enriched uranium is really an answer to many of the issues, to many of the challenges that Ukraine as a nation faces in the area of nuclear safety, future of nuclear energy, medical uses of isotopes and many other areas of use of peaceful atom.”
“Today, we have signed a document that provides for practicalities, which clearly stipulates the obligations of each party, and we have full confidence in ability of both Ukraine and the United States to meet the stated goals and timelines,” Gryshchenko said.
20 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
Clinton also noted at the New York press briefing that 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence.
“It gives us an opportunity to reflect on another key aspect of the strategic partnership between our nations, our joint commitment to democracy and shared values,” she said. “It’s not been easy to build a strong democracy from the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, but Ukraine has made significant gains.”
Gryshchenko told reporters that the United States has been for the last 20 years and will continue to be a major strategic partner in the global economy and in global politics.
“We believe that democratic developments in our country need to be based on an understanding that democracy brings with itself full responsibility of those who are elected or appointed to high positions in government,” Gryshchenko said.
“We believe that listening to the people, interacting with them, is important for our own future and our own success,” he said.