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The Story Behind the Annexation of Crimea

By
Hristu-Robert CODREA

Ms. Calvin Crystal


Geopolitics
8th of April 2015

Table of Content

I.
II.
III.

IV.
V.

Introduction
Costs of the action
Why did Putin annex Crimea?
a. Russian Ethnicity
b. Sevastopol Naval Base
c. Nations of Ukraine
Ukraines relationships
a. Bond with Russia
b. Relations with the West
Conclusion

The Story Behind the Annexation of Crimea

The takeover of initially Ukraines Crimea by Russia in March 2014 by Russia


came as a slap on the face on the Western powers reputation as it showed incapability
to come in aid. Without doubt it increased Russias military positioning strategy and it
united once again Russian citizens because Crimea was considered to be taken away
from mother-land after the fall of the USSR in 1991. Ukraine is walking on thin ice and it
should do a lot of critical thinking regarding its relationships between the West and
Russia and which position should they turn to.
The annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014 shocked the whole world and
it condemned Russias expansionist foreign policy. It is considered to have been one of

Putins top priorities for long time to bring back Crimea to the motherland as an act to
the nation, but I think it was more of an opportunity in order to achieve broader strategic
goals on the international stage. This action came as a disastrous scandal on the
international media platforms and Putin paid a pretty big price for it. First of all it is the
first reshape of the post-Soviet political map sinIn, more ce the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics (USSR) fell in 1991 and it represents a precedent which puts Russia in a tight
spot and it can be used against it. Another reason is that the Russian president desired
to create a Eurasian Union with countries like Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan (Gill,
2014). I think that in order for this alliance to be legitimate it would need to also be
backed by Ukraine, but after seizing the south eastern part of the country, it is very
unlikely for them to cooperate again. A third cost would be a much damaged relationship
with the Western powers and a bad popularity in the eyes of the media and the world. I
am sure that Vladimir Putin knew about the price he would have to pay for his actions,
but what made him proceed with his actions?
After the annexation the Russian government released statements saying that
the ethnic Russians in the whole Ukraine, especially in Crimea faced threats from the
Ukrainian people. Since 1991, after the USSR collapsed, a very frequent theme present
in the political debates was the protection of the 25 million ethnic Russians that were
outside of their motherland after the dissolution. In Ukraine, more than 20% of the
population has Russian ethnicity, but in Crimea, they make up almost two thirds (The
Associated Press, 2014). Even though the Kremlin government did not take actions
regarding other states in which ethnic Russians are part of, I think Putin has a good
argument in order to back up his actions. Since 2000 when he got elected as president,
Putin has always claimed that Russia has an old and long civilization and culture and it
has to be kept within its nation boundaries. This is his argument regarding the danger
following the fall of the Ukrainian pro-Russian president Yanukovich. The new
provisional Ukrainian government stated that all the political affairs that would take
place would be in Ukrainian and this should be the official business language in the
country. This poses a great danger to the ethnic Russians and would be a violation of
their civil rights. I believe this is a valid civic reason for Vladimir Putins actions, but I

think this is not the main core of his decisions. There is a whole plot that is set and
ready to happen but yet we do not know what is about to happen.
Another more valid reason is the position of the Sevastopol Naval base that is
placed in the Crimean peninsula. It became part of Russia in 1783 (Gill, 2014). It is the
only port of Russia that is opened to warm water (the Black sea) and it has a great
strategically importance because it has access to the Mediterranean sea through
Bosporus and Dardanelles straits. In 1954 Khrushchev (First Secretary of the Central
Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) made Ukraine responsible for
the naval base, but giving the fact it was part of USSR there was no divergence and the
Soviet fleet still used it as if it was theirs. After the fall of the USSR in 1991 Russia lost
the whole territory but later an agreement was reached and they would still have access
to the port until 2017 (Green, 2014). Moreover there would be a later extension until
2042 and another possible opportunity to extend it to 2047 (Cooley & Dubovyk, 2008).
Giving the fact that the new provisional Ukrainian government was considering joining
the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), it would
have been very likely to re-negotiate the treaty and reduce Russias access or even
share the port with NATO troops, which would be inadmissible for the Kremlin
government, so they had to take the matter in their own hands.
Ukraine is not per se a nation state. There is more than one nation that is living
inside the Ukrainian borders. There are three major diverse groups that are inside the
country. First we have the eastern part in which its people are pro-Russia and the most
Russian ethnic are present. It is the core of the pro-Russian political activists and it gave
a lot of support to the former president Yanukovich. Then, we have the western part
which was added after the Second World War which is mostly made up of people who
were part of Poland and Czechoslovakia. Finally there is the central part which is the
heart of Ukraine and where the capital, Kiev, is found. There are a lot of differences
between these three parts (traditions, religious, linguistic) and there is a huge
nationalism sentiment in all these parts which cause a lot of tension.
Ukraine and Russia have been close through the history and it was considered a
very powerful fraternity between these two countries, but this image was destroyed in

1991, when the USSR collapsed. But this unity was not only based on language and
traditions; during the Soviet period there was a strong and deep economic bond. This
still exists because Russia is Eastern Europes main gas supplier, most of the pipelines
go through Ukraine and there are a lot of financial subsidies coming from them. This
strong relationship means that both countries have to act in each others best interests,
but I think mainly Ukraine should act in Russias best interest. I believe that Ukraine is
most of all a buffer zone between Russia and the West, and whoever knows how to
control it, will win this feud. Everything was working fine for the Russian government
until Yanukovich was thrown away and replaced by the interim government which is not
favorable towards Moscow. Everything started when Yanukovich backed away from a
new potential better relationship with the European Union and wanted to renew its
contracts and relationship with Russia. On one side, the EU made an offer for a better
long-term economic growth, but it would mean to cut off all the relationships with
Russia. Later, the interim government stated that they would join the European Union,
but there was no comment regarding the connections with Russia. I think this is a very
delicate situation and Ukraine has to choose the option that hurts them the least,
because no matter what is their decision they would still have to suffer on the short
term, but the best way to look at this matter is to look at the countrys future. Also, if an
anti-Russian government comes to power the situation will not be pleasant at all in
Russia is excluded from the countrys future.
When the people went on the streets and overthrew Yanukovich, the West played
a huge role in this play. There were some United States and European politicians that
were making speeches in order to back up protesters. There were also some secret
conversations leaked that showed the desire of Western officials to pus specific people
to power in order to favor Ukraine to turn to the West (Gill, 2014). Moreover, in February
2014 some negotiations took place between the European Union and Yanukovich in
which they would have got to a compromise in which the president would stay in office
until new elections would be held in May 2014. A way out of this crisis maybe would
have been reached, but the people rejected it. The EU abandoned this offer and
preferred for the people to be anti-Russian so it is more in their favor. The Western
position was strengthened when they threatened Russia with sanctions if they would

move on with the Crimean annexation. I believe that since the USSR was dissolved in
1991 the West has continuously tried to create a bad image about Russia and tried to
restrict its power to evolve in terms of power and position. They went against Russian
interests and they always tried to make it obey Western orders, but they still do not
manage to control it or to impose their point of view.
The annexation of Crimea has various geopolitical reasons and I am sure it is
part of a plan we are not yet aware of. All the action that is taking place in the Eastern
side of the country shows us that it is not a very smart idea to take an anti-Russian
stand. Russia has both economically and militarily to make some serious wounds on
Ukraine, the takeover of the peninsula being a clear example. Also, these events
showed the impotence of the West to come in aid when is needed. They only made
some sanctions following Russias actions and the United States sent some ships to the
Black sea and increased flights in the Baltic states, but the effect was nearly inexistent.
This put the West in a bad light showing its incapability and boosted Russias reputation
as a great power. Following his actions, Vladimir Putin gained some benefits in his
mother country as well, making him even more popular by bringing the entire nation
together. Also, it gives him a great geopolitical advantage on foreign policy. It can be
said that is the Wests fault for not giving a lot of room for negotiation regarding the
possibilities the Ukrainians have, maybe the situation could have been avoided. One
thing is sure when Putin saw a great opportunity, he did not think twice.

Bibliography
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