The Wall Street Journal

How Obama Killed Nuclear Nonproliferation

He took the rules-based international order for granted and wouldn’t defend it.

Ravenel B. Curry III Distinguished Fellow in Strategy and Statesmanship
Russian President Boris Yeltsin (L) and American president Bill Clinton sign the CSCE (Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe) agreement in Hungary. (Photo by David Brauchli/Sygma via Getty Images)
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and American President Bill Clinton sign the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe agreement in Budapest, Hungary, on December 5, 1994. (David Brauchli/Sygma via Getty Images)

When Ukraine emerged from the corpse of the Soviet Union, a significant arsenal of Soviet-era nuclear weapons was left on its territory. The Clinton administration devoted much of its diplomatic energy to persuading Ukraine, along with Kazakhstan and Belarus, to return those weapons to Russia.

As President Clinton told the Irish news service RTÉ last week, the Ukrainians resisted American pressure to denuclearize: “They were afraid to give them up because they thought that’s the only thing that protected them from an expansionist Russia.” But Americans, as Mr. Clinton’s secretary of state Madeleine Albright once put it, “stand tall. We see further than other countries into the future.” And so the Clinton administration pushed another message on the Ukrainians: The rules-based international order would protect Ukraine’s future better than anything as anachronistic as nuclear weapons.

Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal.