Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Meaning of the Crimea crisis

By Dmitri Trenin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-03-19 07:41

The referendum in Crimea, the evolving situation in Ukraine and Russia's proactive foreign policy will have a far-reaching impact on international relations. New facts have been established in Eastern Europe. Ukraine does not recognize the referendum and will not agree to Crimea becoming a part of Russia, nor will the United States and most members of the international community. But no country will attempt to physically challenge it.

Instability in Ukraine will continue, and the country's future shape, constitution and international affiliations are wide open at this point. Eastern and southern regions of Ukraine that are home to huge numbers of ethnic Russians will, supported by Russia, continue to demand more autonomy from Kiev. Ukraine's ailing economy will seek more financial support, which the West cannot ignore. The US and the European Union, on one hand, and Russia, on the other, will compete hard and long for the former Soviet republic.

The Baltic states, Poland, Romania and other Central and Eastern European countries, now embedded in the EU and NATO, will seek additional military and diplomatic protection from the US. They are likely to receive some notional US deployments to the region in the form of ballistic missile defense systems, air and sea patrols, and military exercises.

Having made a bold step in Crimea, Russia will not run for cover from Western sanctions and take a defensive posture. Citing the situation of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, it has raised the larger issue of the post-Cold War settlement in Europe. Moscow will not seek to restore the Soviet Union, but it will try to consolidate the Eastern Slav/Orthodox countries, as well as areas inhabited by some Muslim Turkic peoples, into a new Eurasian compact-a competitor and an alternative to the EU, rather than its extension.

In particular, Russia will take an active stance on the Moldova/Transnistria situation, seeking to check Chisinau's drive toward the West or, at least and more realistically, to reintegrate Transnistria (for example, via Odessa) with the areas where ethnic Russians are in majority. If the plan succeeds, virtually the entire northern portion of the Black Sea coastline-from the Dniester River in the west to the Inguri River in the east with Sevastopol at the center-will again be in Russia's hands.

Of course, Russia will face open hostility from the US and its allies in Europe. There will be sanctions, and their associated costs. Russia will not hesitate to strike back wherever and however it can. And something like a new Cold War could follow.

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Most Viewed Today's Top News
New type of urbanization is in the details