It has been more than a year since Russia invaded and occupied parts of Eastern Ukraine, but in reality, those two nations have been engaged in conflict since at least 2014 when Russia annexed and occupied the Crimean peninsula and claimed it as its own territory while backing separatists in the eastern territories.
Now former President Bill Clinton has come out and admitted that he feels a semblance of responsibility for all of that and knew that it would eventually occur more than a decade ago, according to Fortune magazine.
That apparent admission of guilt stems from the role that Clinton played in convincing Ukraine to give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons in a 1994 agreement in exchange for assurances concerning its independence and territorial sovereignty.
What former President Clinton was referring to, according to a 2014 discussion on NPR with a member of the 1994 U.S. negotiating team, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Stephen Pifer, is the 1994 Budapest Memorandum of Security Assurances.
That agreement came about due to the fact that Ukraine possessed a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which prompted the U.S.-brokered agreement between Ukraine and Russia and also involved the United Kingdom.
In exchange for disarming itself of that nuclear arsenal, the U.S. and U.K. gave "assurances" -- notably not "guarantees" -- that it would support Ukraine's self-defense while Russia, then under the leadership of President Boris Yeltsin, agreed to "respect Ukraine's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, that there would be no use of force or threat of force against Ukraine," per Pifer.
Of course, at the time of that NPR discussion, it was clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided not to honor that prior agreement in annexing and occupying Crimea and supporting the eastern territory separatists, but per Fortune, former President Clinton recently revealed that he knew several years before then that Putin would eventually violate the agreement.
According to the Financial Times, Clinton recently spoke at a conference in New York City and recalled a 2011 meeting with Putin in Davos, Switzerland, that made him realize that it was "just a matter of time" before the 1994 agreement would be violated.
"Vladimir Putin told me in 2011 -- three years before he took Crimea -- that he did not agree with the agreement I made with Boris Yeltsin," Clinton recalled. "He said ... 'I don’t agree with it. And I do not support it. And I am not bound by it.' And I knew from that day forward it was just a matter of time."
Clinton went on to urge Western nations to continue to support Ukraine with arms and funding, not only to aid in ousting the Russian invaders and retake captured territory but also as a warning to Chinese President Xi Jinping to think twice about his own clear designs on invading and occupying the nearby independent island nation of Taiwan that the Chinese communist regime has long claimed as its own rogue territory.
Fortune noted that former President Clinton made similar remarks last month during a visit to Ireland, during which he said of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict in an interview with Irish outlet RTE, "I feel a personal stake because I got [Ukraine] to agree to give up their nuclear weapons. And none of them believe that Russia would have pulled this stunt if Ukraine still had their weapons."
"I knew that President Putin did not support the agreement President Yeltsin made never to interfere with Ukraine's territorial boundaries -- an agreement he made because he wanted Ukraine to give up their nuclear weapons," he continued. "They were afraid to give them up because they thought that's the only thing that protected them from an expansionist Russia."
"When it became convenient to him, President Putin broke it and first took Crimea. And I feel terrible about it because Ukraine is a very important country," Clinton admitted.
"I think what Mr. Putin did was very wrong, and I believe Europe and the United States should continue to support Ukraine," the former president added. "There may come a time when the Ukrainian government believes that they can think of a peace agreement they could live with, but I don't think the rest of us should cut and run on them."