Sign reads: Ukraine + Crimea = [heart] © Getty Images
Ukraine After Yanukovych
Crimea on Edge

Will Crimea secede from Ukraine? It’s not likely, unless actors in both Kiev and Moscow behave so egregiously that they end up destroying the very balance that has allowed Ukraine to work so far.

Published on: February 26, 2014
Charles King is Professor of International Affairs and Government at Georgetown University. His books include The Black Sea: A History (2004), The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (2008), and most recently Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams (2011). For further background, readers are encouraged to consult his previous TAI essay on Sevastopol: "City on the Edge".
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  • f1b0nacc1

    So in other words, Crimea will secede….

  • Andrew Allison

    How the Ukraine government governs is not the issue, which is whether Putin will support an autonomous Crimea. I have commented elsewhere that returning the 1954 gift of Crimea to the SSR of Ukraine by the SSR of Russia might offer the best resolution to the Crimea problem. The question is whether Ukraine would rather try and deal with an autonomous Crimea supported, directly or indirectly by Russia than simply give it back.

  • qet

    “None of this requires a “Finland option” of Ukraine, as Zbigniew Brzezinkski recently suggested, or some grand bargain among Europe, the United States, and Russia. It rather requires the one thing that has been missing in Kiev for many years: level-headed and genuinely patriotic statesmanship.”

    In other words–this is a matter that will be determined by the Ukrainians (and Crimeans) themselves, independently of whatever combinations of vapid exhortations and posturing go by the name of “policy” these days in Brussels and Foggy Bottom. Which is exactly how it should be. Unless “policy” means money, of course, which could probably help things, because money always does help things.

    • markbuehner

      You missed a rather important player. Russia could occupy most of the country within a week, if they chose. If Putin felt Brussels and Foggy Bottom were inattentive or indifferent, do you suppose that might encourage him?

  • Pete

    What dribble.

    1. If ‘Yanukovych’s support is limited across the country as a whole,..” how did he win the popular election not that long ago????.

    2. What is wrong with the secession of Crimea? They’d be less trouble in the world if certain religions and ethnic groups were separated. What is Charlie, you’re one of those Kool-aid drinkers who actually believe that there’s strength in diversity.

    3. “If the new Kiev government acts in ways that stress calm, good governance, and reconciliation—not retribution toward sections of the country that originally supported Yanukovych—the chances are good that Ukraine will weather the crisis.”

    How is the ‘new government’ going to do that given that the Ukraine is an economic basket case? Oh I get it. The to pour tens of billions of dollars into the Ukraine. Silly me. I should have known that the answer. Sure, the FED will just print it up and give it away, right?

  • Anthony

    “But the danger of the present is that grievances on all sides now exist in a context of political uncertainty, deeply personalized politics, and slow-motion state breakdown.” Ukraine is definitely in a “delicate moment” and its fragility will probably play out over a decade socially, economically, politically, territorially, etc.

  • BobSykes

    What’s going on is an ethnic fight not a fight for any kind of democracy. After all, Yanukovych and his party were freely and democratically elected and then violently overthrown some ethnic Ukrainians with the connivance of the EU and the US. There is of yet no new Ukrainian government, and once it is formed it will be interesting to see if it has any ethnic Russians in it or is merely an ethnic Ukrainian entity.

    And the map above is highly misleading. The electoral map from the last election and maps of ethnicity show that the Ukraine is not only divided ethnically but geographically, with ethnic groups being almost cleanly separated. Secession by ethnic Russians would involve not only the Crimea but nearly all of southern and eastern Ukraine. And it is probably the desirable outcome.

  • free_agent

    So one damper on any serious succession movement in Ukraine is the fact that it would likely lead Russia to intervene, which none of the Ukrainian factions want…

  • markbuehner

    Here’s the thing- it doesn’t matter if there is much genuine pro-Russian sentiment in Crimea. Putin is artificially creating it as a pretext to keep Russian skin in the Ukraine, certainly in Crimea. Sevastopol is a huge prize for Russia by itself. Putin has a clever card to play- he pays for and/or sends in pro-Russian agitants, manufacturing a pre-text for intervention (if necessary). Just the threat of intervention give Russia a powerful hand in the region, and if he really wants to go Georgia on the Ukraine, he’s well positioned to carry it out.

  • pabarge

    Warning – this article is on the web site of Walter Russell Mead, who voted for Barack Obama.

  • Pete

    Too bad could not have read the cover story in the New York Times on February 28 before he wrote this piece. If this guy is an international expert at Georgetown, that place is in bad shape.

  • bff426

    This Is Ivory Tower analysis at its worst. Literally, from the moment it’s printed, it’s proven wrong. Putin is moving to seize the Crimea now, and will peel off the eastern Ukrainian sections later. His goal is to leave a rump Ukraine, much like Hitler left a rump Czechoslovakia after Munich. I read these analyses and just shake my head at the naïveté. Putin understands power. He has contempt for the talkers.

    Meanwhile, I’m waiting for an update from WRM. Since he last wrote about the Ukraine, he has written about India’s arms purchases, the Keystone pipeline, nuclear power in Japan, the Vatican, religious wars in Nigeria, pension liabilities, natural gas sales for Europe, Thailand and Pediatricians not liking pharmacy-based clinics.

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