The ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, which sounded the alarm bells of war in prosperous Europe, began seven years ago with the occupation of Crimea. Although Crimea is historically, culturally and ethnically “Russian territory”, on January 25, 1954, the Soviet government gave Crimea to Ukraine as a “gift” on the pretext of geographical integration. It should be noted that Crimea is geographically separated from Russia by a canal connecting the Black and Azov Sea.
The northern part of present-day Ukraine, known as the “basket of bread” of the Soviet Union, has been part of the important East Slavic state of Kievan Russia since the 9th century, which collapsed during the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. Then, in 1441, the Tatars of the greater Turkish nation settled in Crimea and established a ‘Crimean Dynasty’ led by a descendant of Genghis Khan. Although Khanat became a state under the control of the Ottoman Empire in 1475, the state had considerable independence. After the Russo-Ottoman War of 1864, the state gained formal independence from the Ottoman Empire, but practically came under Russian rule. Russia finally annexed Crimea in, and the region has since become part of Russia.
After the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, granted regional autonomy to the Crimean Tatars, and in 1921 established a “Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic” in Crimea. After the founding of the Soviet Union in 1922, the Republic of Crimea was incorporated into the ‘Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic’.
During World War II, part of the Crimean Tatars aided the German invaders, and as punishment, the Soviet government deported them to Central Asia and Siberia in 1944. The territory was renamed the Crimean Province, which belonged to the Russian Republic.
Russia’s anger over the “illegal” handover of Crimea after the fall of the Soviet Union was expressed in 2014. When the pro-Russian Ukrainian President Yanukovych fled to Russia in the aftermath of the 2013–14 ‘Euromaidan Revolution’, a fierce anti-Russian and pro-Western government came to power and took various anti-Russian measures, including banning the Russian language in Ukraine. Shortly afterwards, in March 2014, Russian troops occupied Crimea. Crimea also held a referendum in March on Russia’s annexation, with 96.6 percent of voters voting in favor.
Although Crimea was once isolated from Russian territory, after occupying Crimea in 2014, Russia annexed Crimea to the Kuban region in 2016 by building a bridge over the separating Krach system, strengthening Russia’s moral and military position in the region. Crimea currently has an important base of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet. In a show of strength, Russia fired on three Ukrainian naval ships on November 25 of the same year, injuring three sailors and seizing them, raising the possibility of renewed Russian-Ukrainian war. The Ukrainian government then imposed a 30-day martial law in the surrounding area from November 26 to counter Russian action.
After 1945, in 2014, Russia annexed Crimea as a Union Territory of Sevastopol with its own administrative structure, creating the first state to shake the Western world. In this context, the European Union and the Western world imposed a blockade on Russia. However, the wise Putin has always maintained his position in the face of the siege. On the contrary, Russia’s aggressive stance on the recent uprising in the occupied territories of Ukraine is being observed. According to the Ukrainian military, about 20,000 troops had gathered at the border by the end of March. Russia has also deployed the Iskander missile defense system, which is capable of repelling enemy missile attacks on the border and is capable of attacking enemy ground-based radar systems.
Ukraine has sought the involvement of foreign powers in the recent war between the two countries. In addition to the call for Ukraine to join NATO on the issue, Prime Minister Zelensky has visited Turkey in person. In response, the United States did not immediately respond to a call for NATO membership, saying it was “not a single issue.” Because if the United States joins NATO, the United States will be responsible for suppressing Russia’s aggression in Ukraine at any time, morally and constitutionally, even if the global situation is not favorable. However, the United States has sent military equipment to Ukraine twice this year, in January and March, to take advantage of the situation. They also sent a team of military experts earlier this month.
On the other hand, the European Union is not taking any effective steps on this issue. The United States and the European Union are now working to bring Iran’s nuclear program under control. Already, in the wake of the Israeli cyber-attack on the nuclear plant, Iran has caused a stir in the world by announcing 80 levels of uranium enrichment. In this situation, the West does not think that war with Russia is logical. However, if the situation is favorable, the Biden administration will not hesitate to hold Russia’s throat.
In the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of US imperialism over the past decade, Obama has been on high alert in Asia and Africa, including the Middle East, in the first half of his two-term term. But in the second term, he has faced a tough opponent, Putin, who has been dealing with Western powers with great force since 2014. After the collapse of the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, no other Russian leader has been able to turn a blind eye to the Western world and stand firm in his demands. He was the first to stand in the way of the Americans in the Middle East Syria issue, where the Americans fell behind. Recently, there are fears of a major Russian intervention in South Asia, centered on Afghanistan. A high-ranking Pakistani official mentioned that Putin had given a “blank check” to Pakistan during the Russian Foreign Minister’s visit on April 8.
However, Turkey has recently reiterated its previous position on the Crimea issue and assured Ukraine of all kinds of cooperation, which has angered Russia. Shortly before the announcement, Russia requested that the two US warships enter the Turkish-controlled Bosporus in accordance with the Montreux Convention.
In light of the above, the US administration may take two steps on the Ukraine issue. First, to strengthen Turkey’s anti-Russian stance by creating a rift between the two sides, to take advantage of the Syria and Iraq issue, and to weaken the three countries by breaking the Turkey-Russia-Iran alliance. And the importance of the Black Sea to Turkey could create the possibility of this contradiction. Second, to weaken Russia by imposing economic blockades through the conduct of the Cold War and to break their moral position abroad.
However, both the Russian and Turkish presidents are losing ground in their respective countries for allegedly suppressing the opposition, and no one is expected to take part in the war. Moreover, the current presence of Russia and Turkey in the world and the mutual relations are much better than before. As a result, the two countries will not easily get into conflict, unless the United States forces.
In the current context, Germany and Turkey could play a key role in finding a lasting and acceptable solution to the crisis between Europe’s first and second largest countries. Earlier, Germany had taken the most effective steps in the Russia-Ukraine crisis in 2014 and 2016. Turkey also says it is in favor of peace and order in the region. Pointing to the US warship’s move towards the Black Sea, Erdogan said Turkey wants to see the sea as peaceful and cooperative, not unstable. Therefore, the United Nations, along with Turkey and Germany, must soon take effective steps to reach a lasting solution between the two countries, taking into account bilateral interests. Otherwise the epidemic-ridden world could face another terrible war, which could lead to the collapse of the European Union by creating a new wave of refugees in Europe.
Arman Sheikh is regularly contributing to international politics.