`Nationalism and Nukes' in Ukraine

In the Opinion page article "Nationalism and Nukes," Dec. 1, the author brings up the urgent issue of Ukraine's delay in ratifying the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The author's concern for this delay is understandable, but his attempt to explain the Ukrainian position is off the mark and bears little resemblance to the facts.

Ukraine has not refused to sign the START agreement. It was submitted to the Ukrainian parliament only last summer. Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect the Ukrainians to rubber-stamp the treaty without properly studying it.

The director of the Ukrainian military's Center for Strategic Research on Nuclear Weapons, Maj. Gen. Vadim Grechaninov, says Ukraine is willing to give up the uranium used in the nuclear warheads to Russia for only a fraction of its worth, and he predicts that the parliament will ratify the treaty within three months.

Contrary to the author's statement, Ukrainians have not "refused to allow Russians to deactivate Ukrainian missiles." Ukraine has already transferred, ahead of schedule, all of its tactical nuclear weapons to Russia. This is convincing evidence of its commitment to become a nuclear weapon-free state.

The Ukrainians certainly cannot be accused of being infected "by a nationalistic virus." Unlike its neighbors, Ukraine has experienced almost no ethnic unrest. This is largely the result of a government and a political opposition that have made a conscious effort to define Ukrainian citizenship in terms of territoriality and not ethnicity.

We should be concerned about Ukraine's hesitation to sign START and address Ukraine's reservations to get the treaty signed. But alarmist articles like this one do not facilitate this process. Bohdan Pyskir, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute

I read with some dismay how Ukraine is allegedly involved in nuclear "blackmail." This simply is not true. The author writes on a country "whose president - supported by an Army infiltrated by officers loyal to the current regime - maintains an iron grip on the government and the economy." To whom is the army of a country supposed to be loyal? No international scholar of any repute has accused the Ukrainian Army of "having an iron grip on the government and the economy."

The author states, without any basis, that the Ukrainian government demands $5 billion to $6 billion for the enriched uranium in the warheads. I have been following the international and Ukrainian press, radio, and television daily and can assure you that this is pure disinformation.

The Ukrainians stated that they need financial help in dismantling the warheads but argue that if these dismantled warheads are given to Russia to sell the enriched uranium and keep all of the proceeds, the Ukrainians are being cheated.

The situation in Ukraine is complex. There is not a trained political and economic elite, and nation-building is difficult. But this article does little to clarify and much to disorient the current debate on US policy to this troubled region. Roman Kupchinsky, Munich, Germany, Director, Ukrainian Broadcast Department of Radio Liberty

The author is disingenuous in suggesting that Ukraine is irresponsibly holding on to the former Soviet nuclear arsenal located on its territory. While Russia continues Moscow's long-standing practice of fostering armed conflict abroad, the author considers Ukraine a threat to European stability.

The US should encourage Russia to begin destruction of the former Soviet nuclear arsenal on its territory. In addition, Moscow should surrender technical control of former Soviet nuclear arms to Ukraine. A transfer could be made conditional on a comprehensive Western support program to help Ukraine destroy the weapons on its territory instead of surrendering them to Russia. If the West assures Ukraine's security, Ukraine might carry through on its nonnuclear vow.

The US and European wait-and-see attitude toward the newly independent countries of the former USSR presupposes the reemergence of a dominant Russia and therefore only increases the Ukrainian government's resolve to demand more attention and concrete support.

A strong and provisionally nuclear-armed Ukraine is the answer to stability and further development in eastern Europe and beyond. Genuine support and respect for Ukraine will go a long way in taming Russia's imperialist attitude, making the world truly a safer place to live. Petro Matiaszk, New York Secretary, National Executive Board Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Inc.

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