Page 1


Volume 4 - Issue 3 March 2014

Ukraine’s Sovereignty & Russia’s Near Abroad The recent developments in the Ukraine are driving the international community into a never ending cycle of Track I diplomacy, with little to show for it. What constitutes a sort of phenomenon though is the fluidity of the situation that shifts by the hour. In this issue of Atlantic Voices, our authors provide the background of the crisis and events that led from tension of political relations to escalation and action that violates international values and norms. They examine the interplay between super-

A Soldier standing guard in Crimea (Photo: European Parliament)


and/or devolving its status within the interna-

When Does A Country Become A Gamble - The Case Of Ukraine in 2014

tional sphere.

Dr. Tiago Ferreira Lopes, provides an in-depth analysis of the situation in

powers and how Russia is currently evolving

History, narratives and ineffective political Ukraine and elaborates upon the historical background that has brought Crimea agendas drew the roadmap towards Ukraine's to the frontline. demise, while the poker game continues to be played on behalf of the people, as the interna-

The Crimea Crisis In Ukraine - The Stakes Are High

tional community remains hesitant to take Dr. Olga Burlyuk, examines the intricate situation in Crimea and sheds light on questions of national sovereignty. What are the regional and international concrete action.

stakes with the passing of this referendum and how the nuclear disarmament Edited by: Klaudia Tani Atlantic Voices, Volume 4, Issue 3

regime is at stake. 1

When Does A Country Become A Gamble? The Case Of Ukraine (& Crimea) In 2014 30 million and amongst the 28 European Union member-states

By Dr. Tiago Ferreira Lopes

only Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom and Spain have


hen the Euromaidan protests erupted in Kiev, in

bigger populations (with Spain having a slim advantage of less than

the night of 23 November 2013, no one could

1,200,000 additional inhabitants).

have predicted that less than four months later

The rallies that sprang out in Kiev were indeed pro-

issues like the secession of the Crimean peninsula would be on

European Union and that was enough to catch the attention of

the table. The protests begun as a reaction to the not so unex-

Brussels politicians and technocrats. There was a narrow chance to

pected decision of President Yanukovych to suspend the signa-

reverse the actions of a democratically elected President; there

ture of the Association Agreement and the Free Trade Agree-

was still hope to revive the almost-deceased Eastern Partnership.

ment with the European Union or the verge of the third Eastern

Uncertainty was the major player in Kiev, but it seemed definite

Partnership Summit that was going to take place in Vilnius on 28

that Ukraine was on the brink of some sort of transformation.

-29 November 2013.

Evidently we could not have predicted the path leading to the

To the European Union the defection of Ukraine was a

most recent (and still highly uncertain) developments… or could

major blow to the ambitious Eastern Partnership project that had


envisioned the creation of an enlarged and multilevel partnership

Synoptic Tour Over Ukrainian & Crimean History

with Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus,

Ukraine’s “golden past” (a recurring image in post-soviet

Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

countries) occurred during X-

But in Vilnius, in November 2013,

XII centuries when the Kievan

only Moldova and Georgia signed

Rus’ (ruled by the Riurikid dyn-

the Agreements, with Armenia and

asty since the end of the IX cen-

Belarus preferring to join the Mos-

tury) became one of Europe’s

cow-led Eurasian Customs Union

largest states. In the middle of

and an Azerbaijan more out than

the XII century the principalities

in. Ukraine, however, was always

of Vladimir, Suzdal and Polotsk

considered the bigger prize of the

asserted their right to greater

Eastern Partnership project with a

autonomy, weakening the pow-

population bigger than 45 million

er of Kiev that would be de-

people and a territory with more

Cossacks by Ilya Yefimovich Repin (

stroyed with the Mongol invasions of the XIII century. In the

than 603,000 km2. Just to give an idea of the impact of a close cooperation

last quarter of the XIII century Moscow, under the lead of the

between the European Union and Ukraine, It is worth mention-

Great Prince Daniel, replaced Kiev as the center of the Riurikid

ing that inside the European Union only, France topples the

power until the demise of Feodor I, in 1598. In the XIII-XIV cen-

territorial dimension of Ukraine. The territories of all other five

turies, Crimea was under the influence of the Italian republics of

prospective Eastern Partnership countries barely surpass

Genoa and Venetia, settled in the region to carry out merchant

427,000 km2. In what regards population, the combined popula-

activities across the Black Sea.

tion of the other five prospective Eastern Partners hardly reaches Atlantic Voices, Volume 4, Issue 3

In the XIV century the Italian merchants lose control over 2

the peninsula, most probably because of the Black Death that was

partition of Poland; in the East, in 1783, the Russian Empire

annihilating entire villages and towns across Europe.

claimed full control over the Crimean Khanate and over the lands

In the XV century the Tatars of Crimea, emboldened by the raids of Tamerlane that destroyed the Golden Horde’s power, raised

between that peninsula and the lower Dnieper River that were renamed: New Russia.

a new state: the Crimean Khanate that would soon become a vassal

The events of 1848, the famous “Spring of Nations”, in-

state of the Ottoman Empire. During this period (XIV-XV centuries)

spired Ukrainian intellectuals to develop a sense of Ukrainness. In

most of Ukraine’s territory, north of Crimea, was under control of

the late 1840’s the Cyrillo-Methodian Society calls for the for-

Poland and Lithuania.

mation of a federation of Slavic nations. In the second half of the

Pause! As we can see, the History of Crimea was played be-

1860’s and during the 1870’s, stirred by the Valuev Edict of 1863

tween Ukraine/Russia and Turkey (to use the contemporary designa-

and by the Ems Decree of 1876, that prohibited most forms of publications in “Little Russian” (original

tions) for centuries and although merchants from the Italian Genoa and Venetia republics also played some role in the region, their concern was purely economic without meaningful political dominium over the Tatars,

The intention of Tsar Alexander II on limiting Ukrainian language and culture was the catalyst to the spreading of feelings of Russophobia and Ukrainness.

populist activists and members of several semi-clandestine cultural associations faught to protect, promote and develop Ukrainian folklore, literature and

the Bulgarians and the remaining Khazarians inhabiting the peninsula.

name given to Ukrainian language),

(evidently!) language.

The XVI century is one of the most interesting periods in the

The intention of Tsar Alexander II on limiting Ukrainian

region, with the Crimean Khans’ de facto disputing control over the

language and culture was the catalyst to the spreading of feelings

Caucasus with Moscow and Istanbul. Khans Mehemmed Giray I and

of Russophobia and Ukrainness. That explains why in 1917-1919,

Sahib Giray I were in fact able to extend their influence to the Khan-

with Russia engulfed in a string of continuous revolutionary pro-

ates of Astrakhan and Kazan and forged diplomatic links with several

cesses, which would lead to the Civil War, and with the Austro-

Circassian principalities and Nogay dominated lands.

Hungarian Empire dismembered, several Ukrainian short-lived

In the second-half of the XVI century, with the appearance of

republics would emerge and claim independence.

the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Union of Lublin, 1569),

Ukraine was, once more, in the middle of tensions be-

Ukraine experiences a deepening of its social division with the elites

tween West and East. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (1917) posi-

in Kiev and the western provinces becoming more “polish-like” and

tioned Ukraine inside Germany’s growing sphere of influence; but

converting to Catholicism; while the peasants and farmers living in

the defeat of Germany in World War I motivated Lenin to nullify

the eastern provinces retained its Slavic language and its Eastern Or-

the Treaty and to invade Ukraine.

thodox faith.

The Peace of Riga in 1921 incorporated Ukraine in the

The rising social tensions lead to an armed uprising that re-

newborn Soviet Union, without the western provinces of Volhyn-

sulted in the formation of the Cossack Hetmanate. With the Otto-

ia and Galicia, which were still under control of Polish forces. In

man Empire controlling the Crimean Tatars and the ghost of the

1939 the western provinces were returned to Ukraine and in

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the West, the Hetman Khmel-

1956 the Crimea was annexed by Nikita Khrushchev to Ukraine,

nytskyi signed a Treaty of protection with Aleksey I, Tsar of Russia

after more than 500 years of de jure and de facto separation. It is

(Treaty of Pereyaslav, 1654).

this Ukraine, without a sense of meaningful National Unity, highly

During the XVII century the Crimean khans became media-

divided by the continuous West/East divisions, and gifted with

tors par excellence between the Ottoman and Russian Empires with

Crimea thirty five years ago, that claimed full-fledged independ-

the best example being the negotiations that led to the Treaty of

ence in the 1990’s.

Bakhchisarai, in 1681. With the signature of the Treaty of Küçük

On the 5th of May 1992, the Crimean Republic adopted

Kaynarca, between Russia and the Ottomans in 1774, the Crimean

the Act on Proclaiming State Independence of the Republic of

Khanate is relieved of its vassalage to the Ottoman Empire.

Crimea breaking away (at least de jure) with Ukraine. On the 6th

At the end of the XVIII century, Ukrainian lands face (once

of May the Parliament of the Crimean Republic re-asserted its

more) a division between two Empires. At the West the Austro-

sovereignty, stating however that some powers (like territorial

Hungarian Empire controlled the region of Galicia, following the

jurisdiction) where voluntarily delegated to Ukraine’s govern-

Atlantic Voices, Volume 4, Issue 3


ment. The legal/constitutional contradictions between Cri-

Kuzio goes a step further distinguishing stateness (state-

mea’s government and Kiev were only settled in March

building) from nationhood (nation-building) when defining the


idea of quadruple transitions. Without a focus on a harmoniza-

A Troubled Post-Soviet Road

tion and consensus about the National idea, transitions are

The new sovereign Ukrainian republic that emerged

doomed to fall into a difficult-to-end cycle of power shifts

after the collapse of the Soviet Union was dominated by the

amongst different proto-identitarian projects competing to cap-

continuous tensions that divide the country. The ruling elites

ture political power in order to protect themselves.

knowing these tensions, preferred to ignore them enchanted

The continuous crisis in Kyrgyzstan; the ongoing unrest

by the procedural (misleading) idea of democracy presented

in Uzbekistan; the difficult pacification of Tajikistan and the

by Schumpeter, according to whom if you have relatively

tense relation between Georgia and its autonomous regions are

free and just elections when you have a democratic govern-

proof of this fact: without a medium-to-long-term program of

ment in place.

nation-building policies (able to highlight commonalities, with-

Schumpeter’s model of “prêt-à-porter” democracy,

out erasing the specificities of different psychosocial collectivi-

combined with a


horde of enthusi-


astic acolytes of

of the politi-

Lipset that be-

cal game in

lieved in a strong







nomic develop-

tends to be

ment and suc-


cessful democra-


imIt is a

tization, mislead several


deeply divid-


elites across the



that sees the

space. The im-


portance of cul-

elites seizing



Ethno-linguistic Map of Ukraine (Photo: Washington Post)


the power in

prior and/or during the political-institutional-economic

2004, via the Orange Revolution. Although some politicians,

reconstruction of Ukraine was downsized undermining in-

analysts and experts seem to have forgotten, during its mandate

definitely the prospects to achieve any sort of meaningful

as Prime-Minister Yulia Timoshenko was not exempt of errone-

political stability.

ous moves. In January 2009, in a clear usurpation of power,

Ukraine attempted to modernize and to democratize

Timoshenko signed a gas-deal with Russia’s Gazprom that alleg-

itself without aiming to create some sort of National Unity

edly damaged the country in, at least, 1.5 billion hryvnas (close

idea. According to Rustow the forging of an idea of National

to $162 million).

Unity (that should not be mistaken with unanimity and ho-

At the end of May 2009, news surfaced about a potential

mogeneity) is the sole prerequisite needed to begin a success-

alliance between Timoshenko and her rival Mr. Yanukovych in

ful transition, towards a substantive democratic regime. In a

order to amend the Constitution so that the President would not

reflection about the specificities of the post-soviet space tran-

be elected by popular vote and the next parliamentary elections

sitological cycle, Offe calls for a triple transition: liberaliza-

would be postponed, at least, until 2014 allowing Timoshenko

tion (politics); modernization (economics) and stateness

to cling on to power. Yanukovych’s withdrawal from the puta-


tive alliance damaged the image of Timoshenko in the Western regions.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 4, Issue 3


It is this Ukraine that, disappointed with its pro-Western leader, reversed the failed Orange Revolution (unable to curb

sidered with greater importance. Paris, these days, is relegated to the role of host country of high level discussions.

corruption and to limit the power of the oligarchs, which are still

To the European Union it is essential that Ukraine signs

the biggest shadow-players in the country) with the presidential

the Association Agreement with Brussels or, at least, that

elections of February 2010. Amongst its electoral promises,

Ukraine does not sign any Agreement that would lead into the

Yanukovych never hid that he was going to reproach Moscow,

rival Eurasian Customs Union that President Putin is trying to

freezing the approximation with NATO but not with the EU. In

build (in order to replace the CIS project). The European Union

2010, for example, Yanukovych extended the permission of the

already lost the pipeline race to Russia, with Nabucco being

Russian Black Sea Fleet to be based at Sevastopol until 2042.

deemed as a dead (or at least comatose!) project, even if the

Yanukovych promised, and accomplished, a review of the polemic Gazprom deal of January 2009, in order to ease the troubled finances of Ukraine. Yanukovych’s

France, whose only real intention seems to be a competition with Berlin, offered its capital to the negotiation round, just like it had done in August 2008, when Sarkozy was in power.

politicians and technocrats in Brussels’ corridors insist that the project might still happen in a nonpredictable future. Additionally,


party tried to force him, during the presidential elections cam-

Ukraine to Russia would kill the prospects to reshape and rebuild

paign, to promise the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,

the Eastern Partnership project in a moment in which Baku is

but in May 2010 the president said no because the preservation

still an uncertain partner and Chisinau might need to reproach

of territorial integrity was important to him. Moscow was dis-

Moscow due not only to its economic and energy dependency,

pleased with the move.

but also to the fears that the Kremlin might stir Gagauz separa-

In August 2012, President Yanukovych signed a polemic diploma that made Russian the official language in several eastern

tism to undermine the viability of Moldova as a sovereign state. 2) United States of America!

provinces of Ukraine. Academicians, analysts and politicians

United States of America’s sudden interest in Ukraine’s

warned the President that the move might lead to a deepening of

events is less clear, if we downplay the clear fact that several

the West/East tension that drives the country since the XIII

politicians in Washington and the Pentagon are still living within

century. Moscow was satisfied with Kiev’s bold initiative, espe-

the Cold War mentality. Ukraine is not even a member of

cially after the referendum of February that year, which denied

NATO, so any intervention in the region will be difficult to jus-

Russian to be raised to the status of national language in Latvia.

tify in the international community.

So when in the end of November 2013, Yanukovych

It seems clear that Obama’s Administration wants to

withdraw Ukraine’s participation from the Vilnius Summit and

show some political capability in Europe’s Eastern Neighbor-

proudly presented the aid package offered by Russia and the new

hood, in order to compensate the loss of the Middle East to Rus-

gas deal brokered with Gazprom, the Western-minded elites and

sia during the Arab Spring. Although several top-politicians and

activists took to the streets of Kiev frustrated with the route to

analysts in the USA are still in denial, it is clear that the Arab

Moscow that the country was following.

Spring projected the power of Russia in the Middle East at the

A Poker Game Called Ukraine

expenses of the USA.

1) European Union!

The decision to intervene in Libya, the prolonged silence and

The enrollment of the European Union in Ukraine’s

support for the deposition of an elected President in Egypt, and

events is clear. The visits of Vitali Klitschko and Arseni

the inability to reach a multilateral agreement in Syria dimin-

Yatsenyuk to Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, in Febru-

ished the credibility of the White House across the Middle East.

ary 2014 showed the complicity between Berlin and the Euro-

In a seemingly childish move, the White House wants to “take”

maidan activists.

Ukraine from entering into Moscow’s backyard even if to do that

France, whose only real intention seems to be a competi-

it has to support a coup, once again against an elected President,

tion with Berlin, offered its capital to the negotiation round, just

led by far-right parties.

like it had done in August 2008, when Sarkozy was in power.

3) Russia!

The new President however, has shown an incapacity to be con-

Ukraine is vital for Putin’s dream of a Eurasian Union that will replace the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 4, Issue 3


Ukraine’s inclusion into the Eurasian Union would not only vali-

tion. Crimean Tatars are a Turkic ethnic group sharing a series of

date the European credentials of the project (confirmed by Ar-

socio-cultural connections with Turkey. Ankara however, de-

menia’s decision to join the group), but would also pressure

spite the common cultural heritage and Davutoğlu’s theory of

Moldova and Turkey to join.

one common Turkic Nation, has remained mostly silent during

The ethnic card, by prompting the cessation of Crimea,

the last few weeks.

was used with intelligence by the Kremlin. After the short war

The timing of the Crimean crisis could not be worse to

against Georgia, in August 2008, Russia recognized the claim for

Erdoğan’s government, making it difficult to see a more pro-

independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia being followed, so

active stance from Ankara’s decision-makers! Turkey is in the

far, by five other UN-

middle of a campaign for regional elections (that will happen on

member states. The use

30 March) that has been

of violence, coupled

rippled with a series of

with the feeling that

scandals involving the

both republics will join

Prime-Minister and its

the Russian Federation


in medium-term, un-

In addition, there

dermined the prospects

is also an open confron-

of a wider recognition

tation between Erdoğan

of the two breakaway

and Gülen that started


to gain shape last year

When the Cri-

after the Gezi Park pro-

mean Parliament called

tests. In the last few

for a referendum to

days, Erdoğan has spo-

secede from Ukraine, it

Russian Troops in Ukraine (Photo: Reutersmedia)

ken at the telephone with Putin

was clear that the Kremlin was using the same tools that West-



ern countries used in Kosovo in 1991. US and EU officials have

stating that Turkey was watchful and concerned with the events

said that the referendum is not legitimate because it violates the

unfolding in the Crimea, but it is not predictable that anything

territorial integrity of Ukraine and its Constitution, but the same

will happen in the short/medium-term.

argument might also be used when referring to the case of Koso-

5) Ukraine! The new government in Kiev now has a series of mo-

vo. Is Ukraine’s (and Georgia’s) territorial integrity more

mentous tasks ahead of it. First it needs to claim some degree of

important than Serbia’s? Aren’t sovereign states supposedly

legitimacy; we can dislike Yanukovych’s ruling style and deci-

equal in the international arena? Even further: if Western coun-

sions, but he was elected by popular vote. Second, it needs to

tries maintain the denial to acknowledge the results of the Cri-

forge an enlarged consensus regarding the political, economic

mean referendum, they will be undermining one of democracy’s

and psychosocial transformations that the country needs.

fundamental pillars: self-determination by popular vote. In that

Third, the intention of the new government to deny

case, of clear double standard, it will be more difficult to pro-

Russian as the official status of a regional language might have the

mote/impose certain democratic standards and to backlash sanc-

reverse effect of XIX century’s Valuev Edict demoting Ukrain-

tions to countries not following the Western-pattern of democ-

ness and leading to a raise in Ukrainophobia in the Eastern prov-


inces. Fourth, if Timoshenko gains preeminence in the new gov-

4) Turkey!

ernment the Russian-minded population might give up on stick-

Crimean Tatars that ruled the Crimean peninsula for more than three hundred and thirty years, are the third biggest ethnic group comprising about 12% of the peninsula’s popula-

Atlantic Voices, Volume 4, Issue 3

ing to democratic tools and procedures causing tensions to rise again. Fifth, and last, even if the new government wants to


reproach Brussels and sign the adherence to the Eastern Partnership, Kiev cannot forget that it shares a border with Russia that still remains the country’s biggest provider of energy and second biggest export partner. No expert, politician, academic or analyst is in the position to rightfully predict what will happen in Ukraine, but it seems reasonable to assume that there is a need to take into consideration the complexity of the psychosocial identitarian projects that compose contemporary Ukraine. The West/East dynamic of Ukraine is not unique, being ultimately shared by its neighbors Russia and Turkey, but needs to be seen with cautious and unbiased intentions. There is, indeed, a clear need to take into account the West/East dynamic, looking without using a manichaeistic lens but in a complementary manner in order to achieve a consensus that will allow the formation of National unity that will bring some stability to the country.

About the author Dr. Tiago Ferreira Lopes is a lecturer at Kirikkale University in Turkey on International Relations and a Researcher at the Orient Institute at Lisbon University in Portugal. He works further-

Kuzio, Taras, 2010. The Crimea: Europe’s Next Flashpoint? Washington: Jamestown Foundation Kuzio, Taras and D’Anieri, Paul (eds.), 2002. Dilemmas of Stateled Nation Building in Ukraine. Westport: Praeger Publishers Meyer, James, 2007. In Migration, Return, and the Politics of Citizenship: Russian Muslims in the Ottoman Empire, 1860-1914. International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 39, N.º 1, pp. 15-32 O’Brian, Brickford, 1953. Russia and Turkey, 1677-1681: The Treaty of Bakhchisarai. Russian Review, Vol. 12, N.º 4, pp. 259-268 Peacock, A., 2006. The Saliūq Campaign against the Crimea and the Expansionist Policy of the Early Reign of 'Alā' al-Dīn Kayqubād. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series, Vol. 16, N.º 2, pp. 133-149 Poppe, Andrzej, 1976. The Political Background to the Baptism of Rus': Byzantine-Russian Relations between 986-89. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 30, pp. 195-244 Prizel, Ilya, 1998. National Identity and Foreign Policy: Nationalism and Leadership in Poland, Russia and Ukraine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Saunders, David, 1995. Russia and Ukraine under Alexander II: The Valuev Edict of 1863. The International History Review, Vol. 17, Issue 1, pp. 23-50 Schönle, Andreas, 2001. Garden of the Empire: Catherine's Appropriation of the Crimea. Slavic Review, Vol. 60, N.º 1, pp. 1-23 Vardys, Stanley, 1971. The Case of the Crimean Tartars. Russian Review, Vol. 30, N.º 2, pp. 101-110 Vasiliev, A., 19362. Was Old Russia a Vassal State of Byzantium? Speculum, Vol. 7, N.º 3, pp. 350-360 Wanner, Catherine, 1998. Burden of Dreams: History and Identity in Post-Soviet Ukraine. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Williams, Brian Glyn, 2001. The Crimean Tatars: The Diaspora Experience and the Forging of a Nation. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV Wolchik, Sharon and Zviglianich, Vladimir, 2000. Ukraine: The Search for a National Identity. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

more as a senior analyst at WikiStrat in Washington DC.

Bibliography: Croskey, Robert, 1984. The Diplomatic Forms of Ivan III's Relationship with the Crimean Khan. Slavic Review, Vol. 43, N.º 2, pp. 257-269 Dvornik, Francis, 1956. Byzantine Political Ideas in Kievan Russia. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 9/10, pp. 73-121 Fisher, Alan, 1978. The Crimean Tatars. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press Fisher, Alan, 1967. Şahin Girey, the Reformer Khan, and the Russian Annexation of the Crimea. Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, Neue Folge, Vol. 15, N.º 3, pp. 341-364 Griffiths, David, 2008. Catherine II Discovers the Crimea. Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, Neue Folge, Vol. 56, N.º 3, pp. 339-348 Hillis, Faith, 2012. Ukrainophile Activism and Imperial Governance in Russia's Southwestern Borderlands. Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, Vol. 13, N.º 2, pp. 301-326 Himka, John-Paul, 2002. The Ukrainian Idea in the Second Half of the 19th Century. Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, Vol. 3, N.º 2, pp. 321-335 Katchanovski, Ivan, 2005. Small Nations but Great Differences: Political Orientations and Cultures of the Crimean Tatars and the Gagauz. Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 57, N.º 6, pp. 877-894 Kortepeter, M., 1966. Ġāzī Girāy II, Khan of the Crimea, and Ottoman Policy in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, 1588-94. The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 44, N.º 102, pp. 139166

Atlantic Voices, Volume 4, Issue 3


The Crimea Crisis In Ukraine: Stakes Are High By Dr. Olga Burlyuk


ther may be violated for some reason or it may not. The UN Charter stands on the latter. Ironically, Russia and Putin person-

he break-up of Ukraine and the separation of Crimea,

ally have been an ardent defender of the latter too. Russia’s inva-

as well as Eastern and Southern provinces has been a

sion in Crimea is thus an act of aggression against Ukraine. If the

classic topic of security and identity analyses on

inviolability of a state’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is a

Ukraine ever since its independence. Yet, few experts (if any)

matter of degree, then the question is what reason – in the case

anticipated the present crisis and Russia’s “covert” invasion in

of Crimea, what number of citizens, ethnic representatives or

Crimea. Even fewer experts anticipated this would happen now,

language-speakers of a country in a third state oppressed, in

presuming Putin would be exemplary of the time of Winter

which ways and to what extent – would justify military invasion

Olympic Games in Sochi and his nomination for the Nobel Peace

of that third state. This is where Russia’s official discourse is

Prize. Indeed, an intervention following the Presidential elec-

pointing at. Accepting this track means opening Pandora’s Box

tions in Ukraine, which were initially scheduled for March 2015

and risks setting on fire the world rich in mismatches between

and which Viktor Yanukovych would lose given the decline of his

border and ethnic lines.

popular support reaffirmed by recent protests, would have been

Even if one was to accept the logic of degree and not

less surprising. However, Putin had to react to Euromaidan and

principle, thrust by Russia upon the world, the Crimean case

the change of power in Ukraine, and he had to react fast, in any

would hardly meet any reasonable threshold. The Russian narra-

case before the Russians could consolidate ideas of launching a

tive of Crimea as a traditional Russian territory with an over-

“Maidan” in Russia itself. Getting back at Ukraine and intimidat-

whelming Russian population that became part of Ukraine in

ing some parts of Russian domestic audiences while soothing

1954 is largely accepted in the West and constitutes a part of the

others is more and more frequently named by Ukrainian, Rus-

standard coverage in the Western and especially European me-

sian and international experts as the ultimate motivation of

dia. This narrative plants the seeds of acceptance of Russia’s

Putin’s invasion in Crimea, which otherwise makes no economic

aggression and possible annexation of Crimea. However, this

sense. Notably, Russian opposition leaders (Boris Nemtsov,

narrative manipulates history and negates the history of all non-

Mikhail Kasyanov, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and others) were

Russian peoples. It is also a crude misrepresentation of the pre-

among those few who predicted that Putin would “turn the

sent. According to the All-Ukrainian population census of 2001,

screws” internally and eventually invade Crimea “to get back at

ethnic Russians constituted merely 58% of the population of

Ukraine”. Whatever Putin’s original intention has been, the

Crimea. This percentage has decreased significantly since the

crisis in Crimea today is much more than the crisis about Crimea

previous census of 1989 and can be assumed to have decreased

and threatens the post-war and post-Cold-war world order and

further in the past 13 years, because the death rate exceeds the

security. This paper focuses on a number of key issues at stake

birth rate in all but the Crimean Tatars community of Crimea.

and the possible costs of failure of the international community

The results of the public opinion poll conducted by the Interna-

to resolve the crisis.

tional Republican Institute/USAID support this inference: only

International Law And The Foundations Of World

45% of Crimean residents in 2011 and 40% in 2013 considered


themselves to be Russian. So, ethnic Russians constitute at best

First, the Crimea crisis challenges once again international law and the principles of state sovereignty and territorial integrity as the foundations of contemporary world order. Is the inviolability of a state’s sovereignty and territorial integrity a matter of principle or degree? This is the question at stake. If it is a matter of principle, then the territorial integrity of a state eiAtlantic Voices, Volume 4, Issue 3

half of the population of Crimea and roughly 1 million people. For reference, ethnic Russians constitute about 17% of the total population of Ukraine, which is a smaller share than in the Baltic States; and there were about 6 million Russian-speakers in Germany as of 2003, according to a report by the Russian MFA. It is 8

needless to mention that a Russian-speaker does not equal an ethnic

ter of Crimea, who, by the way, received merely 3% of the votes

Russian and that an ethnic Russian does not equal a Russian citizen

in 2012 local elections and is a criminal authority under the nick-

(to the question of who may and is to be “protected”). What is im-

name “Goblin”. The Ukrainian authorities and the international

portant to point out, is that a Russian-speaker or an ethnic Russian

community have declared the referendum illegal and its future

does not equal a supporter of separation of territories from Ukraine

results illegitimate. The OSCE Chair ruled out even the possibility

and their integration into Russia. According

of an OSCE observation mission at the referendum. Second, the

to the public opinion poll conducted by the

territory is occupied and isolated

Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foun-

from mainland Ukraine by Rus-

dation in February 2014, only 12% of the

sian military, the population is

Ukrainian population supported the idea of

terrorized by armed gangs,

“closer integration with Russia”, with the

Ukrainian TV channels are off the

highest rates of 41% in Crimea, 33% in

air, and the two options on the

Donetsk, 24% in Lugansk and 15% in

referendum ballot are, essential-

Kharkiv (the three Eastern provinces of

ly, “I want Crimea to join Russia

Ukraine). Similarly, according to the public

now” and “I want Crimea to join

opinion poll conducted among the residents

Russia later”. Holding a legiti-

of Crimea by the IRI/USAID, only 33% in

Caricature of Crimean Referendum (Photo:

mate referendum on any question

2011 and merely 23% in 2013 responded that Crimea should be

in such circumstances would be impossible. The only purpose of

separated from Ukraine and given to Russia. At the same time, 49%

this referendum seems to be feigning popular support for the

and 53% respectively believed that Crimea should retain its current

earlier decisions of the self-proclaimed Crimean authorities to

autonomous status within Ukraine and 6% and 2% believed that the

separate from Ukraine and join Russia.

autonomy was altogether unnecessary. Even weaker separatist moods

Whichever way you look at the situation in Crimea – a

stem from the public opinion poll conducted by Razumkov Centre in

matter of principle or a matter of degree – the existing system of

December 2013. Only 6.5% of the population of Ukraine supported

checks and balances and the fundamentals of international law and

the idea of “separation of some regions”, with merely 9% in the East

world order are neglected and thus at stake. The success of

and 13% in the South (which includes Crimea). In other words, there

Putin’s annexation of Crimea will send yet another signal to the

is not a single region in Ukraine where the majority of the population

world that might is right.

supports the idea of separation and unity with Russia, also not in

International Law And The Foundations Of World

Crimea itself. Importantly, all three polls were conducted before


Russia’s military invasion. Now that a separation has become a real

The Crimea crisis also challenges public international

possibility and Russia’s methods have become clear, the support rates

law and the foundations of world security. Under the Budapest

can be reasonably expected to decrease, as traditionally fewer people

Memorandum on Security Assurances of 1994, Russia, the UK

favor the idea of “a separation by war”.

and the USA, later joined by France and China, reaffirmed their

So, Russia’s claims on the all-Russian population of Crimea

commitment to respect the independence, sovereignty and the

that unanimously wants to join Russia simply do not hold. And the

existing borders of Ukraine, to refrain from the threat or use of

nature of the threat this population faces, other than the invaders

force against the territorial integrity and political independence of

themselves, is yet to be identified, for there is no evidence of any

Ukraine and to seek immediate action to provide assistance to

Ukrainian government ever persecuting Russian or Russian-speaking

Ukraine should it become a victim of (or threat of) an act of ag-

citizens of Ukraine. The results of a local referendum scheduled for

gression. These guarantees were reaffirmed by the USA and Rus-

16 March 2014 will have neither legal nor moral value. First, a local

sia in a Joint Declaration in 2009. Under the Memorandum, the

referendum of such sort is against the Constitution of Ukraine

five countries, arguably the world’s security super-powers, are

(whichever version) and the Helsinki Final Act 1975. Furthermore,

explicitly obliged to protect Ukraine. Yet, one of the guarantors

the referendum was scheduled by a decision of a closed session of the

(Russia) is the aggressor and breaching its obligation by action,

Crimean Parliament on the initiative of a self-appointed Prime Minis-

while the other four (the USA, the UK, France and China), should

Atlantic Voices, Volume 4, Issue 3


they fail to step in for Ukraine, will be breaching their obli-

Ukraine itself, the suggestions are voiced to revive immediately

gation by inaction. Theoretically, in case Ukraine looses

the old infrastructure and enrich the remaining uranium before it

effective control over parts of its territory, it could take the

is too late (i.e. before Russia invades mainland Ukraine). In the

case to the International Court of Justice and seek repara-

case of failure, the role of the International Atomic Energy Agen-

tions from the five guarantors.

cy will be reduced to an entirely toothless watchdog.

What is more, the case of Ukraine challenges the

The Costs Of Failure

value of all similar existing or future security arrangements.

If Russia succeeds, Ukraine and the world will at best

The future role of the main Western security actors is at

and at least get another inact conflict. Ukrainian experts predict

stake. What is a security guarantee by the USA, the UK or

the potential of a conflict in Crimea to be similar to the one in

France worth, if they fail to protect Ukraine? How trust-

Transnistria, with elements of inter-ethnic tensions similar to the

worthy are similar bilateral and multilateral collective secu-

Northern part of Kosovo. As discussed above, ethnic Russians

rity provisions? Belarus and Kazakhstan concluded identical

constitute about half of the population in Crimea and do not

Budapest Memoranda in 1994, and their own security is

unanimously support annexation to Russia. In turn, the highly

now, basically, at Putin’s

organized minority of Crimean Tatars (15-20%) and the remain-

discretion. It is premature

ing largely Ukrainian population

to speak of the crisis of

(35-40%) are explicitly opposed

trust within NATO yet,

to the current developments.

but the similarities of the

As the experience with Cyprus,







arrangements are all too

demonstrates, this frozen con-

obvious. Moreover, securi-

flict may obstruct or altogether

ty is one of the areas where

block future integration of

the West is still in the lead

Ukraine into European and

globally, and the loss in

Russian Soldier in Crimea (Photo: Deutsche Welle)

this domain may hurt the West in other areas. In the end, a failure of the Western guarantors to

international structures, above all into the EU and NATO. This

in itself might be one the aims of Putin. It will also portray a possibility of armed conflict to the very borders of the EU.

protect Ukraine will send a clear signal to the world: rely on

Besides, it is uncertain whether the Crimea conflict

yourself and yourself alone. This is where the next issue

will remain frozen. Despite the official end of the recent training

comes to the fore: nuclear arms.

of Russian military, Russia continues to pool forces to Ukraine’s

Disarmament, Non-Proliferation And The Nuclear

Eastern and Northern borders. And while it is unclear how far

Future Of The World

Ukrainian authorities and the population of mainland Ukraine are

The crisis in Crimea puts the success of the dis-

ready to go, they are unwilling to give Crimea up without a

armament and non-proliferation regime and the nuclear

fight. Ukrainian military in Crimea have so far not fired a shot

future of the world at stake. In 1994, Ukraine renounced its

only for direct commands not to shoot, in order to avert the

nuclear arsenal and acceded to the Treaty on the Non-

realization of the so-called Abkhazia scenario. This restraint shall

Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in exchange for the firm

not be seen as reluctance, however. To the contrary, Russia’s

guarantees of its security under the Budapest Memorandum.

invasion only further consolidated the Ukrainian population and

Now Ukraine, once the third-largest nuclear power in the

boosted patriotism. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reports that at

world, is under attack by one of the guarantors and, if the

least 40,000 men voluntarily conscribed in the army over the

other four do not step in, is left without protection. What

past weeks (which is in itself extraordinary for Ukraine, where

will the non-proliferation regime be worth then? The plain

evasion of compulsory military service has developed into an

signal for the rest of the world would be to continue devel-

art). Furthermore, the Ukrainian Reserve Army and the National

oping or strengthening their nuclear arsenals. Even in

Guard are being formed, to reinforce the regular army or to take

Atlantic Voices, Volume 4, Issue 3


action in case of the authorities’ indecision. Thousands of women follow nursing courses, which state and private clinics offer for free. The people seem driven by sheer patriotism, as well as a sense of duty towards the people of Crimea (and especially Cri-

About the author Olga Burlyuk is an independent expert on Ukraine and EU

mean Tatars) and a clear realization that, if successful, Putin will

external policies towards its (Eastern) neighbourhood. She holds

not stop at Crimea and invade mainland Ukraine. Indeed, Rus-

a PhD in International Relations degree from the University of

sia’s impunity in the case of Crimea will cancel out the existing global mechanisms of checks and balances and may encourage Putin to go further than initially in-

Kent. Her doctoral research focused

In the end, a failure of the Western guarantors to protect Ukraine will send a clear signal to the world: rely on yourself and yourself alone.

on EU rule of law promotion in Ukraine. See Olga’s latest publications:

tended, in places other than Ukraine. It may also activate frozen or covert conflicts in other regions of the world and, as discussed earlier, may boost nuclear activity. There is little sense in guessing how the Crimea crisis will end and in assessing what the international community is doing right and wrong: the situation changes by the hour and, for any serious prognosis, one needs access to classified information. Currently, the crisis is being dealt with in the domain of Track I diplomacy, and there is no way of knowing how adequate the world’s response is and will be. Yet, the signals from the extraordinary sessions of the UN Security Council, NATO, the EU Council, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and domestically in the USA, strong diplomatic language of the documents adopted at these meetings and tough rhetoric of Western leaders, the withdrawal from participation in the G8 Summit in Sochi and others demonstrate broad involvement and serious commitment of the West to resolve the crisis, at least publicly. The much believed original scenario of Putin – a blitzkrieg in Crimea à la Georgia in 2008, followed by a smooth and welcomed invasion in the Eastern and later Southern regions of Ukraine – has already failed. Undoubtedly, this has something to do with the international reaction to the events. One may only hope that the measures of the international community will prove to be sufficient on the whole. Otherwise, a fresh joke that “the warmest ever winter in Europe ended with a Cold War” will become a reality. And a successful annexation of Crimea by Russia will end with a true humanitarian crisis: in addition to the dependence of the local budget on state subsidies (65%) and the reliance of 90% of Crimean residents on income from tourism (70% from Ukraine), the peninsula receives 100% of its gas, 100% of its railway connections, 85% of its drinking water and 80% of its electricity from mainland Ukraine. There is presently no infrastructure in place for providing any of these from Russia.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 4, Issue 3

Bibliography BBC. (2014, March 10). Crimea referendum: What does the ballot paper say? Retrieved March 13, 2014, from Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation. (2014). Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation. Retrieved 2014, from How relations between Ukraine and Russia should look like? Public opinion polls’ results: : http:// Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. (2003). Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Retrieved 2014, from Report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation "Russian language in the world": B6BE784B3E2ABD1343256DF8003AC21C? OpenDocument Nemtsov, B. (2014, February 22). Echo Moscow. Retrieved March 13, 2014, from Maidan Lessons: http:// Nemtsov, B. (2014, February). live journal - Boris Nemtsov. Retrieved March 2014 Nemtsov, B., & Kasyanov, M. (2013, December 11). Radio Svoboda. Retrieved March 13, 2014, from Boris Nemtsov and Michail Kasyanov on Maidan: http:// Ostapchuk, V. (2014, March 07). The Global Mail. Retrieved March 13, 2014, from Don't let Russia abuse Crimean history: article17357913/. Razumkov Centre. (2014, March 10). Public opinion survey "Citizens attitude towards different types of territoorial organisation". Retrieved March 13, 2014, from Razumkov Centre: news.php?news_id=451. Rettman, A. (2014, March 11). euobserver. Retrieved March 13, 2014, from Khodorkovsky: Putin fears Ukraine 'revolution': State Statistics Comittee of Ukraine. (2001). State Statistics Comittee of Ukraine. Retrieved 2014, from All Ukrainian population census 2001: nationality/ U.S. Department of State. (2009, December 04). U.S.-Russia Joint Statement on Expiration of the START Treaty. Retrieved March 13, 2014, from Diplomacy In Action: dec/133204.htm United States Agency for International Development. (2013). Public Opinion Survey Residents of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Washington: US AID.


ATA Programs The Spanish Youth Atlantic Treaty Association hosts its 20th Youth Mediterranean Dialogue from 7-12 April in Madrid. The

Atlantic Voices is the monthly publication of the Atlantic Treaty Association. It aims to inform the debate on key issues that affect the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, its goals and its future. The work published in Atlantic Voices is written by young professionals and researchers.

Dialogue serves as a forum for cooperation between NATO and

The Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) is an international non-

seven Mediterranean states: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauri-

governmental organization based in Brussels working to facilitate global

tania, Morocco and Tunisia with the objective to create an atmos-

networks and the sharing of knowledge on transatlantic cooperation and

phere of understanding and confidence throughout the region in

security. By convening political, diplomatic and military leaders with

order to promote regional security and stability with NATO as a

academics, media representatives and young professionals, the ATA promotes


the values set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty: Democracy, Freedom, Liberty, Peace, Security and Rule of Law. The ATA membership extends to 37

On April 24th the Atlantic Treaty Association in Brussels

countries from North America to the Caucasus throughout Europe. In 1996,

will host a workshop introducing Prof. Brahim Saidy’s policy

the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association (YATA) was created to specifially

brief on Security Sector Reform in the Maghreb to an audience of

include to the successor generation in our work.

state representatives, independent analysts and young professionals.

Since 1954, the ATA has advanced the public’s knowledge and understanding of the importance of joint efforts to transatlantic security through its international programs, such as the Central and South Eastern European Security Forum, the Ukraine Dialogue and its Educational Platform.

From April 24-27, YATA Norway invites international appli-

In 2011, the ATA adopted a new set of strategic goals that reflects the

cants to participate in their annual NORSEC conference. This

constantly evolving dynamics of international cooperation. These goals include:

years conference deals with the diversity of security perspectives

within NATO and the challenges this poses to the cohesiveness of the alliance.

the establishment of new and competitive programs on international security issues.

the development of research initiatives and security-related events for its members.

Atlantic Voices is always seeking new material. If you are a young researcher, subject expert or professional and feel you have a valuable contribution to make to the debate, then please get in touch. We are looking for papers, essays, and book reviews on issues of importance to the NATO Alliance. For details of how to submit your work please see our website.

the expansion of ATA’s international network of experts to countries in Northern Africa and Asia. The ATA is realizing these goals through new programs, more policy

activism and greater emphasis on joint research initiatives. These programs will also aid in the establishment of a network of international policy experts and professionals engaged in a dialogue with NATO.

Further enquiries can also be directed to the ATA Secretariat at the address listed below. Images should not be reproduced without permission from sources listed, and remain the sole property of those sources. Unless otherwise stated, all images are the property of NATO.

The views expressed in this article are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Atlantic Treaty Association, its members, affiliates or staff.

This publication is co co--sponsored by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Atlantic Voices Vol. 4, No 3 (March 2014)  

Dr. Tiago Ferreira Lopes, provides an in-depth analysis of the situation in Ukraine and elaborates upon the historical background that has b...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you