Isn’t it crazy how fast time flies?
It has already been two years since Russia invaded Crimea at the end of February of 2014, and a few weeks after that the Crimean’s voted to join Russia at the referendum.
It was a very complicated move by the Russian President Vladimir Putin – no wonder it was followed by an extremely negative reaction from the Western countries.
There are hundreds of different opinions about what happened in Crimea. I think they all have the right to life, because you can always look at situations from different sides and perspectives.
Here in this post I would like to answer the question “why did Russia annex Crimea” and talk about the reasoning for Mr. Putin to make such a move, especially, when he knew that it will have a very negative impact on Russia’s relations with the West.
First off, I recommend that you to take a closer look at the timeline of what was happening in Crimea in 2014.
Let’s look at the facts: did Russia annex Crimea? Yes, they did and it’s hard to argue about it. But the most important question to me, is why did Putin decide to annex Crimea? Why did Russia so desperately need Crimea on their side?
2 Main Reasons Why Russia Annexed Crimea
1) Putin couldn’t let NATO get access to Crimea.
In my opinion it was the main reason – national security. From the words of Vladimir Putin:
“I invited the leaders of our special services and the defense ministry to the Kremlin and set them the task of saving the life of the president of Ukraine, who would have simply been liquidated. We finished about seven in the morning. When we were parting, I told all my colleagues, ‘We are forced to begin the work to bring Crimea back into Russia’…”
“We couldn’t allow restrictions on our access to the Black Sea… Couldn’t allow NATO troops to step on the Crimean land, which would have drastically changed the balance of the forces in the Black Sea region…”
To understand this better you must know that Russia (and later Soviet Union) had a base of the Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol, Crimea since 1783. Crimea’s location is very important because of the access to the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Indian ocean.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia lost their base in Sevastopol. In 1997 Russia and Ukraine signed a Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet. Russia has been renting a base in Sevastopol since then, paying 100 million Dollars a year with an extra discount price on gas for Ukraine. Russia was allowed to use the Port of Sevastopol for 20 years until 2017 with the restrictions of having up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems, 132 armored vehicles and 22 military planes on the Crimean peninsula.
In 2010 in Kharkiv, Ukraine the Russian leasehold was renegotiated with an extension until 2042 and an option for an additional five years until 2047.
So, what would have happened if Russia didn’t annex Crimea after the revolution in Ukraine? The new government would have probably opened the door to Crimea for NATO, which was unacceptable for the safety of Russia. Vladimir Putin had no other choice other than to annex Crimea, even after the fact that he realized it will complicate the relationship with the West.
2) Crimea was a part of Russia for over 200 years.
Crimea has a rich history of being a part of Russia for a while – to learn more about it I recommend you to check out my post about the history of Crimea.
Here is what Putin said about it:
“We couldn’t leave our compatriots, the Russian people and people of other nationalities under the threat in Crimea…”
“We wanted to give Crimean’s a chance to decide their future themselves through the referendum… If they want to join Russia, then we can’t leave these people…”
For sure, the referendum in Crimea was more of an excuse to make it all look better and trustful in the eyes of Russians and the rest of the world. Crimean’s didn’t really have a choice, because it was all decided for them on the upper level.
What is your opinion about this topic? Why do you think Russia annexed Crimea? What will happen in the region in the near future? All comments are welcome!