As a result of the collapse of the USSR, four new nuclear states de facto appeared: the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Ukraine became the heir to the third atomic arsenal in the world, which was equal to the French, English, and Chinese combined. Ukraine inherited 220 units of strategic carriers, including 130 RS-18 (SS-19) missiles, 46 state-of-the-art RS-22 (SS-24) missiles, and 44 heavy bombers equipped with 1,068 long-range air-launched cruise missiles.
Following the START-1 Treaty's terms, 1,944 nuclear charges were placed on these carriers.
Such a situation violated the distribution of forces that developed after the Second World War and seriously worried the leadership of influential states and the world public. Therefore, international meetings, which took place mainly at the initiative of the USA and Russia, were aimed at solving this issue.
After signing the Lisbon Protocol in 1992, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan were declared non-nuclear weapon states.
The principles of non-nuclearity ("not to accept, not to produce and not to acquire nuclear weapons") were laid down in the Declaration on State Sovereignty of Ukraine, which was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada (Parlament) of the Ukrainian SSR on July 16, 1990.
The Massandra Agreements of September 3, 1993, provided for the ways and basic principles of disposal of nuclear weapons located on the territory of Ukraine, as well as the procedure for guarantee and copyright supervision of the operation of strategic missile complexes situated on the territories of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
On January 14, 1994, during the Moscow meeting, the presidents of Ukraine, the United States, and Russia signed the Tripartite Statement, which stated that Ukraine was on the path to nuclear disarmament.
On November 16, 1994, Ukraine joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons on July 1, 1968. These actions confirmed that Ukraine owns all nuclear weapons inherited from the USSR and intends to eliminate them, using nuclear energy exclusively for peaceful purposes.
On December 5, 1994, Ukraine, the Russian Federation, Great Britain, and the United States of America signed the Budapest Memorandum, according to which the participating states were to respect the independence, sovereignty, and current borders of Ukraine, refrain from any manifestations of aggression against Ukraine, including from economic pressure.
Two decades later, the Russian Federation violated the Memorandum by invading Ukrainian territory in 2014.
The United States allocated 350 million dollars to Ukraine as part of the Nunn-Lugar program, part of which went to the construction of housing for Ukrainian rocket engineers, the organization of control, accounting, and safe storage of radioactive materials, and the supply of various engineering and special equipment and materials.
In turn, Russia undertook to assist Ukraine in eliminating missile and nuclear weapons and paying the cost of atomic warheads of strategic missiles by supplying fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants.
On January 5, 1996, in the town of Pervomaisk, Mykolaiv region, in the presence of the defense ministers of three countries - the United States of America, Russia, and Ukraine - the first of 176 mine launchers of strategic missiles was detonated.
By June 1, 1996, all nuclear warheads were exported to the Russian Federation.
Ukraine had 130 RS-18 (SS-19) liquid strategic missiles - 90 in Khmelnytskyi, 40 in Pervomaisk, and 46 RS-22 (SS-24) solid-fuel missiles - all in Pervomaisk. RS-18 carried six nuclear warheads, and RS-22 - ten.
In the period from 1996 to 1999, all 13 RS-18 ICBM missile regiments were withdrawn from combat duty, 130 RS-18 liquid-fuel rocket launchers were eliminated, and 111 missiles of this type were eliminated in Ukraine at the neutralization complex in the city of Dnipro ( Dnipropetrovsk at that time), 19 RS-18 missiles were transferred to the Russian Federation.
On December 5, 1998, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and the United States signed an agreement to eliminate 44 heavy bombers and 1,068 X-55 air-based cruise missiles.
On November 16, 1998, Ukraine began to destroy strategic bombers with US funds allocated under the Nunn-Lugar program. In the presence of American senators Richard Lugar and Karl Levin, the first Ukrainian Tu-160 with the serial number "24", manufactured in 1989 and flown 466 hours, was ceremoniously cut up.
The second aircraft, produced in 1991 with less than 100 flight hours with serial number "24," was utilized in November 1999.
From 1996 to 1999, Ukraine eliminated 29 Tu-160 and Tu-95MS aircraft and 487 X-55 class air-launched cruise missiles. Following the Agreement between Ukraine and Russia, the latter received three Tu-95MS, eight Tu-160 (out of 38 that were to be eliminated), and 581 air-launched cruise missiles. Their relocation was completed on February 21, 2000.
In 2001, the liquidation of 60 Tu-22 heavy bombers (17 Tu-22M2 and 43 Tu-22M3) and 423 X-22 cruise missiles began.
The elimination of the Tu-22 and Kh-22 air cruise missiles was carried out following the Agreement between Ukraine and the USA on assisting Ukraine in the elimination of strategic nuclear weapons and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction signed on October 25, 1993, as well as the Agreement between the Ministries defense of Ukraine and the United States regarding the provision of logistical and technical means, services and the implementation of appropriate training of personnel in connection with the elimination of strategic nuclear weapons, dated December 5, 1993.
From 2002 to 2006, 60 Tu-22 aircraft (17 Tu-22M2 and 43 Tu-22M3) were liquidated at the Ukrainian Air Forces airfields in Mykolaiv, Poltava, Pryluky, and Bila Tserkva. By March 2006, 401 units of X22 cruise missiles were eliminated in the Zhytomyr region.
On January 27, 2006, a demonstration of disposal of the last - the sixtieth - Tu-22M3 strategic missile-carrying bomber took place at the "Poltava" airbase. Three heavy bombers of the Tu-22 type and seven mock-ups of Kh-22 aviation cruise missiles (without internal filling) will remain as museum exhibits in Ukraine.
Ukraine thus became a victim of the balance of power of the dominant countries of the world, unarmed against its long-time enemy - Russia.