Protest rally against Russian aggression in Ukraine. Simferopol, Crimea, March 15, 2014. Photo: Vadim Ghirda (AP)
The Crimean Plaform. Propaganda and realism
At a press conference after joint talks on June 2, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced that they had agreed to accelerate the implementation of agreements reached at the Normandy meeting in Paris in December 2019, a diplomatic process involving Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France to end fighting in eastern Ukraine. Kuleba also stated that it was important for Ukraine and its international partners to discuss “an international platform for Crimea”, underlining that the issue of Crimea remains a priority for Ukraine until the deoccupation of the entire region.
This statement should allow the Ukrainian government to promote the Crimean problem more forcefully, along with the Donbas issue… unless, of course, underlining the Crimean issue is an attempt to pressure the Kremlin to soften Russia’s position on the Donbas.
In this case, Ukrainians are facing another disappointment. The fact that the Kremlin occupied the Donbas in order to return it for official international recognition of the legitimacy of Russia’s annexation of Crimea was a fairy tale made up by the Ukrainians themselves. There was nothing like this in the Kremlin’s plans. In fact, the Kremlin’s main goal is to regain control over all of Ukraine in one form or another: either as a satellite country, or as an allied state, or as a new “oblast” (region) of the Russian Federation.
When the Kremlin invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014, they aimed to occupy all of so-called “Novorossiya”, and spread Russia’s influence to other regions of Ukraine. Crimea was annexed to Russia simply because, from the point of view of both Vladimir Putin and millions of his compatriots, the peninsula is definitely a Russian territory and must remain part of Russia even if Russia fails to establish full control over other Ukrainian territories…and even supposing a pro-Russian government is brought to power in Kyiv. Nobody in the Kremlin will ever return Crimea to the Ukrainian government. On the contrary, Moscow insists that Ukraine – and the world – should recognize that Crimea has finally returned to its “legitimate harbour”.
Three basic conditions
So, is there any sense in promoting the Crimean Platform? Definitely YES!
The first thesis is very simple: it must be acknowledged that any negotiations with the Kremlin on either Crimea or Donbas are doomed to fail, and politicians who say the opposite should be viewed as irresponsible imitators.
The second thesis: Ukrainians must understand that it will take a long time to fully restore the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine… that this will only be possible after a change of power in Russia and when Russia’s new government either reconsiders its political priorities or faces a tremendous economic and political crisis. Putin will never surrender Crimea or the Donbas; on the contrary, he is ready to take over new territories of Ukraine.
The third thesis: during this long waiting period, everything will depend on Ukrainians themselves, and definitely not on the Russians or the West. Ukrainian citizens must learn how to vote responsibly for real statesmen, and not for collaborators or populists, or for politicians who agree to everything. Ukrainians should learn to refuse oligarchic propaganda and should not believe in simplistic solutions to the conflict with Russia. Furthermore, the Ukrainian government should not seek illusory agreements with Putin, but rather increase Ukraine’s defense strategy and capabilities, and its integration into NATO and the European Union. But, first and foremost, integration into NATO.
If these three conditions are met, Crimea and the Donbas will be returned, and Ukraine will be able to develop and become a prosperous country. If these three simple conditions are not met, Ukraine will unite with either Crimea or the Donbas, becoming either a federal district of Russia or an occupied territory.
That is, in fact, the essence of the entire Crimean Platform.