For the first time since the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, a door to peace seems to have opened at the end of conversations Russian-Ukrainians in Istanbul. Russian negotiators have indicated that the chances of concluding peace would be closer if an agreement was reached on the “neutrality and non-nuclear status” of Ukraine. Requirements formulated by Russia for a long time and that the President of Ukraine recently agreed to seriously consider to end the war. But what are we talking about here and what does this mean for kyiv?
What are the criteria to become a neutral country?
On this subject, there is no single definition inscribed in black on white in any international treaty. For Patrice Bouveret, director of Armaments Observatory, we can qualify as neutral, “a country that undertakes not to attack or participate in the aggression of another country within the framework of a military alliance”. So much for the general definition, but in fact, there are as many types of neutrality as there are states that belong to this club. The reason is simple: the neutral status is decided by an international agreement adopted within the framework of the UN and ratified by the various countries concerned, which together define the parameters.
The criteria vary from one country to another “depending on its history and its involvement in past conflicts,” continues the expert. For example, Switzerland and Austria are neutral countries, but Austria in their status it is forbidden to be in a military alliance where Germany is also located. A condition due to the fact that the two countries were allies during the First and Second World Wars, but which would not make sense for Switzerland.
What does non-nuclear status mean for a country?
“By adhering to this status, a country undertakes not to possess nuclear weapons or develop a nuclear military program, details Patrice Bouveret. This also means that it does not receive a nuclear weapon from another country. During the Cold War Ukraine was home to Russian nuclear weapons and today Germany and Belgium have US nuclear weapons on their soil as part of their alliance with NATO.
On the other hand, the non-nuclear status does not refer to civilian nuclear power. That means Nuclear power plants can continue to operate produce energy in the country.
What consequences for Ukraine?
As for non-nuclear status, nothing really moves for Ukraine, which does not possess nuclear weapons and was already a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). As for its neutrality, that’s another story. This would mean that Ukraine refuses to join NATO. “Then it would become a buffer zone between the member countries of NATO and Russia”, summarizes Patrice Bouveret.
On the other hand, this does not mean that Ukraine will have to demilitarize. “Neutrality does not mean pacifism or the absence of a military force whose mission is the defense of the country,” specifies the director of the Armament Observatory. Furthermore, if Europe has eight neutral countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Austria, Sweden, FinlandIreland and Malta) only three states in Europe do not have a national army: Andorra, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
A neutral Ukraine with non-nuclear status, is it for tomorrow?
It is not because Russian and Ukrainian intentions seem to go in the same direction that they can override the law. In fact, Ukraine’s aspiration to join NATO is enshrined in the constitution. “ president’s statements they have no legal value, contrary to the Constitution,” Olga Aïvazovska, director of the Ukrainian NGO Opora, told AFP. Therefore, it must be changed through amendments or a referendum. Both are prohibited by Ukrainian law in times of war. And even if the war were to stop, I am not sure that the Ukrainian parliamentarians or people plan to quit NATO.
On the other hand, for the neutral status to be recognized, it must be ratified by the parliaments of the guarantor countries, namely the members of the UN Defense Council, the Russia and Ukraine. Therefore, everyone will go there on their own terms, starting with Ukraine, which has already demanded an “international agreement” to guarantee its security. Kyiv wants the United States, China, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Italy, Poland, Turkey and Israel to sign this agreement and react in the event of an attack on the country.