Ashton Carter remembers the day in 1996 when the last nuclear weapon left Ukrainian soil.
It was a moment when the balance of power in Eastern Europe, teetering dangerously since the fall of the Soviet Union, assumed a new stability.
“When the Soviet Union broke up, Ukraine was the third most powerful nuclear power on earth,” said Carter, at that time assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, now the Ford Foundation Professor of Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government. “Ukraine voluntarily gave up that status, and, in return, the Western nations pledged that they would support its territorial integrity. Ukraine was convinced that it was better off having the West on its side than having nuclear weapons on its side.”
This decision was important, Carter said, because of Ukraine’s strategic importance.
“Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity are critical ingredients to the Soviet empire remaining a thing of the past. If Ukraine were not able to stand on its own, a number of other former Soviet states would feel that they could no longer stand on their own.”
The importance of Ukraine to the international balance of power lends special significance to a program taking place at the Kennedy School of Government.
The Ukrainian Security Program, now in its fourth year, brings 30 senior members of the Ukrainian national security community to Cambridge for a 10-day seminar that addresses issues of global and regional strategy, as well as internal issues of defense organization, economic reform, and restructuring. The program is funded by the Smith Richardson Foundation, with additional support from the Department of Defense.
The program brings this group of Ukrainian officials together with top U.S. policy-makers and academic experts. Over the past four years, the program has attracted an extraordinary range of leaders, including members of the Ukrainian parliament; officials from the ministries of foreign affairs, defense, economy and finance; members of the national security council; and the cabinet of ministers. Members of Ukrainian strategic institutes, as well as independent journalists who cover national security affairs have also taken part. This year, representatives from Georgia, Moldova, and Poland are participating in the program as well.
The program participants arrived in Cambridge on Nov. 30 and will remain until Saturday, Dec. 9. Many of them were present at a related event on Tuesday, Dec. 5 – a book-signing by Kostiantyn Morozov, a former Soviet general who became Ukraine’s first minister of defense in 1991.
The book, “Above and Beyond: From Soviet General to Ukrainian State Builder,” describes Morozov’s successful struggle to build an independent Ukraine without igniting civil war. After Morozov’s retirement as defense minister in 1993, he was a senior research fellow at Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute and at the Kennedy School of Government.