- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
The Guardian‘s Luke Harding has a great piece on the potential for a South Ossetia-type conflict in Ukraine’s Crimea region:
Russian-speaking residents say the peninsula, a mass tourist destination in Soviet times, ended up in Ukraine by mistake. The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1954. Russia affirmed the modern borders of Ukraine in a 1997 friendship treaty. Last April, however, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, contemptuously described Ukraine as “not even a real state”.
Nationalist Crimean MPs now liken Crimea to Kosovo – the former Serbian province largely recognised as independent by the west this year. According to Leonid Grach, a pro-Russian communist MP, Crimea will declare itself independent should Yushchenko press ahead with his plans for Ukraine to join Nato.
“If Yushchenko declares that Russia is the enemy, Crimea won’t accept it,” Grach said. “It means that Ukraine will break up. In Crimea there will be a war – maybe even a world war.” Ukraine should renounce Nato, agree a friendship and cooperation treaty with Russia, and prolong the lease for Russia’s Black Sea fleet, Grach said.
I had been skeptical that Russia had the same capacity to undermine the Ukrainian state as it did with fractured Georgia, but after Ukraine’s governing coalition collapsed today over disagreement as to whether to condemn the Russian invasion of Georgia, it’s starting to seem less far-fetched.