There is currently an intense debate about scenarios for ending, or at least freezing, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Most observers acknowledge that meaningful negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow can only happen after a successful Ukrainian offensive. A gap is emerging, however, between Ukraine and some of its foreign partners concerning the future of Crimea. A majority of non-Ukrainian policymakers and opinion shapers seek to compartmentalize the reversal of Russia’s two annexations of 2014 and 2022. While a restoration of Ukrainian territorial integrity in all or most of mainland Ukraine is widely accepted throughout the expert community, a return of the Black Sea peninsula to Kyiv’s control is often seen as impossible, at least in the near future. The proposed division of aims for a temporary solution to the conflict is frequently presented as a pragmatic, “realistic” and prudent strategy for negotiations.
However, these approaches ignore the political and economic implications of the fundamental geographic condition of Crimea – its close and multiple connections to the Ukrainian drylands to its north. Alongside the overarching Russian aim of taking full political control over Ukraine, Moscow’s full-scale 2022 invasion was also motivated by the geological, historical, economic and other links between Ukraine’s Black Sea Peninsula and the south-eastern mainland. These “rational” determinants for Moscow’s deeper incursion into the Donbas and parts of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions are often ignored or underestimated.
As a result, Russia’s readiness and ability to forego the Moscow-controlled land connection between Crimea and Russia is overestimated. Following liberation of Ukraine’s mainland, Crimea, as in 2014–22, would be an annexed exclave of the Russian Federation. It is already and will continue to lack freshwater from mainland Ukraine and a land connection to Russia. It would continue to suffer from an exclusion from international trade, financial exchange and investment, as well as from geopolitical insecurity. Western policy shapers and policymakers should acknowledge these circumstances of the occupied peninsula and support a full restoration of Ukrainian territorial integrity. Instead of advancing an unsustainable diplomatic half-solution that runs counter to both Kyiv’s and Moscow’s interests, the West should provide Ukraine with enough and suitable weaponry to quickly liberate all Russia-occupied territories, including Crimea.
Please find the original piece published in English language here:
Dr. Andreas Umland is an Analyst at the Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies (SCEEUS) at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI).
This article is based on a recent SCEEUS report published here: https://sceeus.se/en
Picture credit: designed by artist Boris Groh/Ukraine Postal Service