WASHINGTON — The United States has told Ukraine and Kazakhstan that it will come to their aid diplomatically if Russia ever threatens them with nuclear weapons but will not promise to defend them with military force, Secretary of State James A. Baker III said Tuesday.
The two republics have promised to hand their nuclear weapons over to Russia, but in exchange they have asked Western countries for security guarantees--complaining that they will feel vulnerable to their giant nuclear-armed neighbor.
The United States is not willing to extend a formal security guarantee to the new republics, Baker said, but will promise diplomatic backing at the United Nations in case of a nuclear crisis.
"We would bring the issue to the United Nations Security Council" if Ukraine or Kazakhstan was ever threatened with nuclear attack after they get rid of their atomic weapons, he said.
Asked whether the United States would promise to defend the republics with military force, Baker replied: "No."
Speaking with reporters before talks with a visiting Russian official, Baker said that even limited guarantees of diplomatic support would depend on Ukraine and Kazakhstan joining the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and formally promising not to acquire atomic weapons.
He indicated that the two republics are dissatisfied with the U.S. position--one of the reasons they have delayed transferring their nuclear weapons to Russia.
A State Department official pointed out that the United States has provided formal defense guarantees to only a few countries: members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Japan, South Korea and Australia.