Though the Crimean crisis is between Ukraine and Russia, it is considered a global crisis due to the involvement of the various nations, particularly the European Union and the United States. The crisis began when Russia decided to annex the Crimean Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, a move considered by the international community, particularly the west as an invasion of Ukraine. The motives behind Russia behaviour remain hypothetical.
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However, some have interpreted the intervention as a means through which Russia strengthens its internal audience and increases its global presence (Dawber Par 3). However, historically, the Crimean have always considered themselves as Russians and the region part of Russia. Also, the Crimean majority belongs to the ethnic Russians and always tends to believe that they belong to Russia.
Moreover, most of the people living in Crimea are Russians. The reasons provide increased room for Russia to intervene in Ukraine in the pretext that they are protecting the Russians and the pro-Russia Crimean majority particularly against the new regime, which is associated with the west. Russia often indicates that its main objective is to protect the Russian interests in Crimea as well as the majority ethnic group. However, its unfolding actions indicate otherwise.
Origin of the Crimea’s crisis
As indicated, over the decades, Crimea has often considered itself a pro-Russian part of Ukraine. Crimea is tied to Russia more than Ukraine in various social, political, and economic grounds (Hagendoorn, Linssen and Tumanov 116). For instance, Sevastopol, the capital city of Crimea, remains strategic to the Russian military, particularly the navy personnel that have stayed in the region since the Soviet era. The Russian navy personnel and the Black Sea Fleet were inherited from the former Soviet Union.
However, in 2009 the relation between Russia and Ukraine was put into test when Ukrainian president Victor Yuschenko, considered by Russia as pro-western ordered the Russians to vacate the key port city by 2017 (Dawber Par 3).
The ultimatum did not go well with the Russian authorities, and the tensed relationship between Russia and Yuschenko’s regime began. As such, Russia decided to change the regime at Kyiv, which they succeeded by throwing their weight behind Viktor Yanukovych in the subsequent elections of 2010. Viktor Yanukovych later won the elections and became Ukraine’s president.
With a new president in office, Russia ensured that its economic and military interest in Crimea is fully secured (Hagendoorn, Linssen and Tumanov 116). On assuming the presidency, Yanukovych first business with the Russian government was to extend the Russian naval stay at Sevastopol for over three decades. The extension of the stay also benefitted Ukraine economically.
The deal between the new regime and the Russian government reduced the fear of eviction that was installed by former Ukraine’s pro-western regime. Even though Sevastopol remains strategic to Russia’s unlimited access to the Mediterranean Sea, it is important to note that the same city also plays host to Ukraine’s naval base (Legvold 231).
The presence of Muslim Tatars in Crimea also contributed hugely to the conflict. Muslim Tatars occupied Crimea even before the Nazi regime. However, the Muslim Tartars were forced out of Crimea following the Russian invasion and occupation of Crimea. The occupation of Crimea by the Russians made Muslim Tatars support the Nazis during the Second World War.
However, the Muslim tartars were finally deported out of Crimea following the defeat of the Nazis. However, the Muslim Tatars returned to Crimea following the fall down of the greater USSR. The presence of Muslim Tatars in Crimea changed the possibilities of attaining political power and leadership in entire Ukraine (Bremmer 263).
Even though the Muslim Tatars are currently about twelve percent of the Crimean total populace, it is important to note that the ethnic group has played a critical role in changing the political regimes. The Muslim ethnic group has always been on the side of pro-western leadership in Ukraine. Russians believe that the Muslim Tatars have recently played a critical role in the regime change that ousted the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.
The unfolding events, which could be described as the new revolution in Ukraine, led to the Russian intervention in Crimea. The revolution led to the abrupt regime changed in which pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted against the wishes of the Russian government. Moscow refused to recognise the interim government that was put in place to oversee the elections of a new government.
The reason is that the interim government received widespread support and recognition from most of the western countries and the international community. Also, Russia, together with some of her allies, refused to recognise the interim government accusing the United States and some western countries of sponsoring a political coupe de tat in Ukraine.
As a result, Russia decided to destabilise Ukraine by sponsoring political dissidents in eastern Ukraine including Crimea and claiming that the new regime is about to discriminate the pro-Russians occupying Crimea ethnically. Studies indicate that the claims were unfounded.
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The squabbling between Russia and the new government in Ukraine led to the deployment of Russian forces into the Crimean Peninsula. Besides, the Russian government funded the rebellion of the Crimean autonomous government against the new regime in Kyiv. The occupation of Russian forces in Crimea was coupled with political actions that finally led to the total annexation of the peninsula into the Russian territory (Hagendoorn, Linssen and Tumanov 116).
Meanwhile, the western governments continued to put more pressure on Russia through the abolition of commercial links and sanctions on top government officials. However, the sanctions and elimination of trade links had little effects on the Russian actions against the new regime in Ukraine.
Essentially, the western countries interventions were through the application of legal procedures, global declarations, and resolutions that nullified the incorporation of Crimea into Russia. As a result, the new regime in Kyiv used the resolutions passed by the west to ratify Crimea as part of Ukraine under Russian occupation. Currently, the standoff between Ukraine supported by the west and Russia continues. However, studies indicate that Russia actions on Crimea and the entire part of eastern Ukraine have interior motives.
Possible reasons behind Russian intervention in Crimea
Shared historical and geographical background
Crimea and Russia share a great deal of historical and geographical heritage. The narrow strip of land joining the island and the mainland is part of the Russian territory. Ukraine is claiming only the Island while the narrow strip of land joining Crime originates from Russian territory. Even though Crimea is considered part of Ukraine by current geographical maps, it is separated from the country in almost all aspects including geographical, historical, political, social and cultural aspects (Lally and Englund Par 5).
Politically, Crimea has its autonomous government fully funded and operational with a capital city situated in Simferopol, which is an area estimated to be around 27000 square kilometers. The capital city hosts both local and foreign military as well as commercial interests of various countries, including that of Russia. Geographically, the Crimean peninsula extends from Russia compared with Ukraine. The peninsula only became part of Ukraine through political declarations.
Historically, Crimea was captured from the Ottoman Empire and became part of the larger Russian around the 18th century during the Crimean war that ended in 1856. Until 1944 the Muslims Tatars, later deported by the Soviet for allegedly supporting the Nazis, mainly populated Crimea. Like many other areas within the greater Russian empire, Crimea was fully part of the Soviet Union (Hagendoorn, Linssen and Tumanov 116).
Crimea became part of Ukraine in 1954 after the soviet leader leaders mistakenly gave it out as a gift. However, when the reign of the Soviet Union ended, Crimean authorities decided that the land is part of Ukraine. Even though the Crimea ended up in Ukraine, around fifty-eight percent of its population are ethnic Russians.
The other ethnic groups account for the minority percentage. Culturally, Crimea shares a lot of norms and practices, including Language and family ties with Russia and often consider themselves as part of Russia. As a result, Russia claims Crimea peninsula as part of its territory.
Crimea is strategic for Russian security
The black sea naval base is critical for Russia military interventions in Europe and Asia. Besides, the black sea naval base is significant for Russia’s security for its European and Asian economic interests. As such, absorbing Crimea into its territory would ensure the protection of the security interests (Lally and Englund Par 7). There are potential short-term and long-term economic and political costs to Russia’s invasion of the Crimea region.
However, the benefits of securing Crimea into Russia supersede the high cost of military action against Ukraine. The reasons explain the fact that the Russian authorities are so determined into annexing Crimea from Ukraine. With Ukraine constantly moving towards the west, Russia has to find ways through which its security and economic interests are protected.
Russian government constantly argue that Ukrainian alliance with the west pose a serious security threat that cannot be ignored especially to the future of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea (Lally and Englund Par 7). Also, the change of a regime in Ukraine presented a tricky situation to Russia since their influence in the region was under threat.
Crimea is part of Russia’s long-term expansion campaign
Russia’s invasion of Crimea is widely seen as part of its ambition to re-establishing the old Soviet Union. Russia started to indicate its expansion plans way back in 2005. Majority of the Russian leaders perceive the collapse of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical disaster. Therefore, the interventions of Crimea can be interpreted as a part of this long-term goal of re-establishing the former Soviet Union (Hagendoorn, Linssen, and Tumanov 118).
The long-term goal has wider ambitions, particularly bringing together millions of Russians living in successive states after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. When an opportunity came about in Crimea, Russia did not hesitate to take full advantage.
The argument tends to explain why Russia’s actions could be more opportunistic and pushed by long-term benefits as opposed to short-term security concerns as had earlier been identified (Hagendoorn, Linssen, and Tumanov 117). Besides, it can be noted that if Russia annexes Crimea, there are the possibility of future attempts by Russia into taking more territory, especially the Southern and Eastern Ukraine.
Consolidated domestic support
The belief among the Russians that Crimea and its people are part of Russia is critical for the regime in Moscow to consolidate its domestic support. The continuous disapproval of the current Moscow regime call for immediate actions that could help reverses the trend and consolidates domestic support (Snyder Par 6). Therefore, the current Moscow regime is embarking on implementing more socially conservative and nationalistic policies to regain the domestic support that is continuously waning.
For this reason, the invasion of Crimea was necessary. In fact, since the intervention, the government’s domestic support and approval ratings have surged significantly. As such, the government is keen on maintaining the same support even if it means invading other territories to bring together the Russian ethnic communities (Snyder Par 6.
The need to re-establish political stability in the region
Russia is keen to re-establish its political influence in the region. Russia’s actions in Crimea were reactionary to how Ukraine ousted its ally (Sindelar Par 3). The Russian government has to be seen as having political influence and determine the political future of the former soviet states. With political processes taking place in Ukraine, Russia had to act in a way that would prevent a similar situation in other fallen Soviet Union states.
Besides, annexing Crimea would give Russia an upper hand in handling the new regime in Ukraine as well as the opposition in Russia (Sindelar Par 7). Essentially, Russia will still be willing to make some more moves that will destabilise the new regime through military encroachment in the southern and the eastern part of Ukraine to gain political influence (Sindelar Par 5). Consequently, a long-term plan of changing the regime in Ukraine by the current Russian government cannot be ruled out.
The strategic economic importance of Crimea to Russia cannot be ignored (Marples and Duke 265). The Asian and European gas pipelines are passing through Crimea. Besides, Crimea holds some of the gas fields that are of greater interest to Russia. Moreover, the growth and development of other industries remain significant to the Russian economy.
Crimea is one of the parts of Ukraine that is rich in minerals ranging from oil to iron ore. While economic activities of the autonomous territory would be seen as insignificant to that of Russia, Crimea has strategically important in Russia economic undertakings with other countries, particularly Europe and Asia (Marples and Duke 265).
The Crimean crisis is perceived as a global problem due to the involvement of many countries, particularly the European Union and the US. Most analysts argue that the crisis is an extension of the former cold war. Indeed, various reasons have been advanced to explain the motives behind Russia’s intervention in Crimea. However, as indicated, the motives behind Russia’s behaviour remain hypothetical.
Moreover, some analysts have interpreted the intervention as a means through which Russia strengthens its internal audience and increases its global presence. The potential motivators of Russia’s invasion of Crimea could overlap at one point or another. Nevertheless, it is not clear which of the aforementioned motivators is the greatest in terms of how they influence decisions. Further, the potential motivators are suppositions that need further studies to ascertain.
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