Crimea to Remain Russian Despite US Pressure

Russia will not discuss returning Crimea to Ukraine with its foreign partners. Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed its government will not discuss its territorial issues with foreign partners.

“As for Crimea’s return, this issue will not be discussed as it cannot be discussed. Russia does not discuss its territorial issues with foreign partners,” Peskov said.

Dmitry Peskov, Russian President's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov. © Sergey Guneev
Dmitry Peskov, Russian President’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov. © Sergey Guneev

The comment issued by Peskov follows a White House statement that US President Donald Trump expects Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine. In the same statement, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump “fully expects to and wants to get along with Russia.”

Last month, President Trump and Putin held a phone conversation and there was no discussion on Crimea’s status.

Last July, Sputnik News reported that Trump told ABC News he would consider recognizing Crimea as part of Russia if he was elected as the next US President.

“The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were [Ukraine],” Trump told ABC News in an interview.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakarova was clear on Crimea’s status and that the issue was permanently close: “We do not return our territories. Crimea is Russian territory.”

Crimea officially rejoined Russia after the 2014 referendum —held on March 16, 2014— where more than 97% of the region’s population were in favour of reunification. With such a vote, Crimea claimed its independence from Ukraine and formally asked Russia to reunite.

In 2014, more than 65% of the Crimean population was Russian compared to 15% for Ukrainians. The reunification was based on protecting the Russian-speaking population, especially since the Ukrainian government has been pushing hard to eliminate the Russian language from being a second official language—or the region’s primary language in Crimea. Ukraine language policy looks like the “Ein Volk – Eine Sprache from Nazi slogans,” making it very dangerous for the non-Ukrainian speaking population.

The fact that Russia is willing to protect Crimea is justified. Whether it is for the majority of the Russian population or its strategic interest in the emplacement of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, it was predictable.

Crimea was transferred to Ukraine in 1954 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the reunification of Ukraine and Russia according to the Treaty of Pereyaslav signed in 1654. Since 1954, the Russian ethnic population never decreased in numbers and most of the population always felt an attachment to Russia.

One of the main reasons why Crimea reunified with Russia is simple: to protect the Black Sea Fleet’s installation in Sevastopol from a NATO-oriented Ukrainian government. That said, although the Ukrainian government passed a law back in 2010 barring Ukraine to join any military alliance, the former Soviet country was approached by NATO on many occasions.

Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol
Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol

Moving the Fleet to Sochi or Novorossiysk would be complicated due to the lack of installations and with the majority of the Crimean being Russian, President Vladimir Putin knew he would have the support of the population.

Russia was leasing the Port of Sevastopol from Ukraine for approximately $98 million a year and many Russian politicians were worried that Ukraine would cancel the lease and request the Black Sea Fleet to move from Sevastopol.

As I said, Sevastopol is the only port ready to host the Black Sea Fleet in the region thus making it a vital region for Russia. The decision to move Iskander missiles to the Crimean Peninsula is a clear sign of the strategic importance of the region. The Iskander missile has also been deployed to Kaliningrad, another major strategic region for Russia.

Russian Iskander-M Missile System
Russian Iskander-M Missile System

The fact that NATO has been expanding eastward since the fall of the Soviet Union is also a reason why Russia wanted reunification with Crimea. Since 1991, NATO welcomed the Baltic States countries to the Alliance and other former Soviet Union countries.

NATO’s expansion is definitely a threat to Russia’s sovereignty, especially since the Alliance was created to defend itself from the Soviet Union. Although the mentality of NATO has been evolving toward a partnership with Russia, the older generation of the Alliance sees Russia as a threat for no reason. With their influence, NATO kept moving eastward under the pretext of protecting themselves and offering the same to former Soviet countries.

Although President Trump stated Russia should return Crimea to Ukraine, I believe it is not their choice as the Crimean population voted for the reunification. Instead of keeping the conflict open through sanctions, the US and its allies should open dialogue with Russia and work together on a much more dangerous threat: international terrorism.

 

 

 

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Jonathan Wade, CD

Jonathan Wade is the director of the ‘The Sentinel Analytical Group’ and a decorated veteran of the Canadian Forces. Specialized in tactical, strategic, intelligence and geopolitics analysis, Jonathan has a fondness for technical details. His military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war. A combat veteran of Afghanistan, Jonathan brings in in-theatre experience. Jonathan writes about Russia, Canada and Arctic.