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NATO's guarantees to Ukraine face test

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He was born on July 9, 1950. I was born on the same date in 1953. So we share an astrological sign. I'd say the stars worked out better for me. He's a billionaire, whereas I certainly am not, but I am free to live as I please, whereas Viktor Yanukovych, having fattened off the riches of Ukraine, is now a wanted criminal. He is hiding somewhere in the Russian Federation, having decamped from Kyiv only hours before the locals got their hands on him. Few would have mourned if he had ended up in the Euromaidan, la Mussolini, Ceausescu or Hussein. Alas, the thief fled in the night.

True, some decent bankers in Switzerland, and perhaps elsewhere, have since frozen Viktor's obvious assets. But it's likely he secreted money elsewhere. That's just the kind of guy Vitkor is. So an international effort must begin immediately to identify Yanukovych's accounts, those of "the family" surrounding him, and of his fellow oligarchs who, in lockstep, despoiled Ukraine. Once recovered, their ill-got plunder will go a long way toward sustaining Ukraine's economic convalescence. Viktor and company won't need loot in the jail cells they're destined to occupy.

Vamos Viktor is, unfortunately, still being a very bad boy. Ever the dutiful minion, he pretends he's Ukraine's president, yet is curiously complacent about the Russian invasion of Ukraine's Crimea. Ignoring the indigenous Tatar community's expressed desire to remain in Ukraine, he has barely whimpered about the illegal occupation of a region he once said was part of his country. I suppose this is understandable, given his subservience to the puppet-master, Vladimir Putin. So instead of championing Ukraine's sovereignty, as one might expect a real president would, Viktor has been blubbering about those who ousted him, branding them fascists and bandits from western Ukraine.

This, of course, is very trite and predictable Soviet-style slander. It's particularly odd, however, coming from the fellow whose Berkut storm troopers until recently had a Facebook page festooned with anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-western bile.

There were fascists in Ukraine, but they were the ones with body armour, high-powered sniper rifles and armoured personnel carriers, surrounding Kyiv's Euromaidan, not inside it. They were the perpetrators of Bloody Thursday, which is why Viktor is now wanted for mass murder. Like one of the pigs Orwell caricatured in Animal Farm, Viktor as Napoleon took orphaned puppies and made them into loyal attack dogs, unleashed to murder the democratic opposition. His hounds are now bunkered down in Crimea. That's no coincidence.

Given our shared birth date, I am surprised Viktor doesn't remember what happened on July 9, 1997. I do. NATO and Ukraine officially signed an agreement that anyone can find on NATO's website. All five states party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons gave Ukraine security assurances in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons. That agreement was reaffirmed Aug. 21, 2009:

"In addition to the regular consultative and co-operative meetings set out in the Charter, the NUC (NATO Ukraine Council) will be convened following a request from Ukraine if Ukraine perceives a direct threat to its territorial integrity, political independence or security, in line with paragraph 8 of the Partnership for Peace Framework Document."

I hope Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, has already made that call.

Russian troops deliberately invaded Ukrainian territory without just cause. There was never any threat to the Russian-speaking minority anywhere in Ukraine. It is now up to NATO, including Canada, the U.S., Germany and the United Kingdom, to honour their treaty obligations and help Ukraine defend itself against Russian imperialism. Lest we forget, Western Europe's failure to support Czechoslovakia against Nazi aggression did not save that country from dismemberment, nor did appeasement prevent the Second World War.

Thinking about Viktor, out wandering in the steppes, I recall what I wrote just before Ukraine re-emerged as an independent state in Europe, when the U.S.S.R. disintegrated in 1991. My views appeared in The Globe and Mail, Nov. 15, 1991. In Moderation and Neutrality -- but hang on to the nuclear arms, I argued Ukraine's independence would be compromised, perhaps fatally, if Kyiv gave up its nuclear arsenal, unless the West guaranteed the country's independence and territorial integrity. The West gave exactly that guarantee. So did the Russian Federation. Ukraine then disarmed, the only country in the world to have given up its nuclear weapons even as other states scrambled to acquire them.

Today, we know Moscow's promises are valueless. We shall soon learn what NATO's guarantees are worth. I'm afraid I was prescient.

Lubomyr Luciuk is a professor of political geography at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 3, 2014 A9

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