Thursday, February 27, 2014

Give it back to Russia?

I know, I know, mucking with borders tends to cause all kinds of unforeseen problems (especially when the mucking is done by someone like me who doesn't know all that much about the places involved), but I keep wondering if just giving the Crimea back to Russia would help diffuse the crisis in Ukraine.

The Crimean Oblast was part of Russia (okay, the RSFSR) until 1954, when Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine (technically, the Ukrainian SSR). Both were part of the Soviet Union at that time, so it was more akin to redrawing a state's borders than an actual change in sovereignty. But that meant that the nation of Ukraine ended up with the Crimean Oblast within its internationally recognized borders when it became independent from the USSR. The population of Crimea has an ethnic Russian majority. Based on yesterday's demonstrations, a lot of them seem to want to be part of Russia and not Ukraine. Russia still maintains its naval institution at Sevastopol (home of the Black Sea fleet) which is the subject of an ongoing dispute between Russia and the Ukraine.

Giving the Crimea back to Russia would not only do what the Russian majority in the territory probably wants, it would facilitate a resolution to the Black Sea fleet issue and would allow Ukraine to get rid of over a million Russians, which would tilt the ethnic balance in the country towards an even more solid ethnic Ukrainian majority. It would also lesson the chance of an armed insurgency against Ukrainian rule in the territory.

On the other hand, the transfer would screw over the Crimean Tatars, who don't want to be part of Russia and who are arguably the ethnic group with the best claim as the indigenous population of the peninsula, even if they are now only 12% of the population. Giving the Crimea to Russia might also encourage other territories in the Russian-dominated eastern Ukraine to try to become Russian.

And also I don't really know what I am talking about. This is just the idea I mull every time I read news from the Crimea. Feel free to tell me why it is a bad one.