Russia’s annexation of Crimea has led to a host of global implications ranging from a set of confrontational policies towards the US and EU to European security challenges. On March 16, 2014, a local referendum was held on the Crimean Peninsula (Grant, 2015). The referendum showed overwhelming support for the reunification of the territory with the Russian Federation. Following the vote, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order recognizing the Republic of Crimea and its admission into the Russian Federation (Grant, 2015). The geopolitical expansion violated international law with respect to the implementation of self-determination. In addition, Ukrainian law concerning the unilateral act of the declaration of independence and secession was broken (Gotz, 2015).
Based on the initial research of the topic, the following keywords have been identified: Russia, Ukraine, geopolitics, the annexation of Crimea, and the world order. The further keyword search has allowed us to identify broad themes associated with the geopolitical expansion endeavor. The aim of this paper is to discuss three global implications of the annexation. It will be argued that the Crimean incident is connected to European security challenges, the deterioration of the US-Russia relationship, and the international legal order.
European Security Challenges
The first global connection that has emerged during the research is European security challenges. The annexation undermined the EU’s global role by showing that the block is not capable of exerting leadership when it comes to the transformation of European security architecture, in particular, and the world order, in general (Pabriks & Kudors, 2015). Coupled with the EU’s defense budgetary cuts over the last several decades, the annexation presented a substantial challenge for the continent’s security environment.
The annexation underscored the limited capacity of the block’s policy toolbox to reinforce the Western-designed agenda. The Russian meddling in Ukraine was followed by the financial support of European integration opponents. Namely, Moscow funded far-right parties in France, the UK, and Germany, thereby raising tensions in the union (Pabriks & Kudors, 2015).
It means that Crimea’s annexation should not be divorced from the context of the EU because it can be regarded as an attempt to test the limits of European resolve to preserve the current world order. Furthermore, the politics of Russia, which undermine the EU, can precipitate new challenges such as the disintegration of the block. From this viewpoint, it is clear that the union has to review its response to the annexation because it can trigger a chain of existential security threats.
The US-Russia Relationship
The geopolitical significance of the transformation of the Ukrainian state by the annexation of Crimea is emphasized by the deterioration of the US-Russia relationship. In response to the crisis, the Obama Administration urged both sides to find a democratic solution (Wang, 2015). Following Russian unwillingness to cooperate, the US and its ally, the EU, launched a series of sanctions against the country. Russia responded by taking anti-sanctions measures and destabilizing several regions of Ukraine (Wang, 2015).
The sanctions, which had targeted senior Russian officials and even entire economic sectors, failed to change the aggressive geopolitical stance of the country. It can be argued that sanctions that undermined the relationship between the two world powers will not shift the core interests of Russia pursued in Ukraine. In addition to political tensions between the two countries, retaliatory measures undertaken by Russia against the EU have political consequences for the US. It has to do with the fact that several states comprising the union have already voiced their objections over the continuation of the economic containment of Russia (Wang, 2015).
The International Legal Order
The illegal Crimean referendum, its acceptance by Russia, and the following annexation of the peninsula have several important implications for the international legal order. When justifying the legality of the action, Russia has argued that the residents of Crimea had the right of self-determination (Biersack & O’Lear, 2015). It has also been argued that the Crimean people had been subjected to systematic oppression, which legitimized their choice to disregard the territorial integrity of Ukraine (Burke-White, 2014). It means that if other states adopt Russian interpretation of the international law regarding the illegality of forceful land acquisition, the integrity of contested borders can be challenged. Therefore, it is necessary to review the international law to prevent future violations.
The principle of the international law that is directly connected to the annexation is the right of self-determination. It is necessary to ensure that the reaffirmation of this right only occurs in the presence of systematic oppression, which is proven beyond reasonable doubt (Burke-White, 2014). The recognition of the right of self-determination by the international community should “exclude the possibility of annexation by an intervening state” (Burke-White, 2014, p. 12). It is also important to hold state actors accountable for actions that destabilize the current international order.
The paper has discussed three global implications of the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia: European security challenges, the deterioration of the US-Russia relationship, and the international legal order. It has been argued that the global expansion endeavor undertaken by Moscow challenged the security of the EU and put a strain on the interstate relationship between major world powers. To strengthen the stability of the multi-hub world, the international legal system has to be reviewed.
Biersack, J., & O’Lear, S. (2015). The geopolitics of Russia’s annexation of Crimea: Narratives, identity, silences, and energy. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 55(3), 247-269.
Burke-White, W. W. (2014). Crimea and the international legal order. Survival, 56(4), 65-80.
Gotz, E. (2015). It’s geopolitics, stupid: Explaining Russia’s Ukraine policy. Global Affairs, 1(1), 3-10.
Grant, T. D. (2015). Annexation of Crimea. The American Journal of International Law, 109(1), 68-95.
Pabriks, A., & Kudors, A. (2015). The war in Ukraine: Lessons for Europe. Riga, Latvia: University of Latvia Press.
Wang, W. (2015). Impact of Western sanctions on Russia in the Ukraine crisis. Journal of Politics and Law, 8(2), 1-6.