Territorial disputes: Crimea (Part 1) [Post 66]


A very controversial and ongoing TERRITORIAL DISPUTE is the case of Crimea. “Crimea is Russian” some argue (Burke-White 2014). “[T]he United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis”, others maintain (Mearsheimer 2014). Yet some go even further and announce apocalyptically a new Cold War (Roskin 2014). 

Leaving aside these and other opinions, the fact is that in early 2014 Crimea became the center of a crisis with Russia and Ukraine as leading actors in the conflict. President Yanukovych was driven from power, Russia seized control of Crimea, and a referendum followed. Ukraine and most of the Western world considered the measures invalid (Barry 2014). In addition to the Crimean “local” crisis in which we may recognize three agents, that is Crimea, Ukraine, and Russia, it is also a reality that this dispute has larger repercussions geographically, politically, and culturally speaking not only for the region but potentially with regards to the globe (Molchanov 2004).

While it is true that there is a crisis in the Crimean Peninsula, and tension is evident between Russia and Ukraine, there is also a fair share of rhetorical argumentation adding unnecessary considerations within legal and political sciences that do not seem to offer any tangible way out. The following posts will cover different views from people at large, politicians and academics in several disciplines such as law, political science, and international relations. We finish this post by including a very succinct background account, a couple of questions to the reader and sources.

Brief background account

  • Crimea lies on a peninsula stretching out from the south of Ukraine between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. It is separated from Russia to the east by the narrow Kerch Strait.
  • For centuries under Greek and Roman influence, Crimea became the center of a Tatar Khanate in 1443, which later became an Ottoman vassal state.
  • Crimea was annexed by the Russian Empire during the reign of Catherine the Great (1783).
  • Rival imperial ambitions in the mid-19th century led to the Crimean War (1853-56) when Britain and France, suspicious of Russian ambitions in the Balkans as the Ottoman Empire declined sent troops.
  • Given autonomous republic status within Russia after the Bolshevik revolution, Crimea was occupied by the Nazis in the early 1940s.
  • Crimea remained part of Russia until 1954 when it was transferred to Ukraine under the then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
  • Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed the treaty on the ‘Restitution of Crimea and Sevastopol inside the Russian Federation’ on 18 March 2014, Russia became the first state in continental Europe to have annexed part of another state’s territory since the 1940s.

To the reader, following two of our previous posts of this series about TERRITORIAL DISPUTES:What are the issues at stakes in this a territorial dispute?Which remedy could be used to solve this particular territorial dispute?
For reference to these questions see:

  • POST 9: Territorial disputes: issues at stake
  • POST 10: Territorial disputes: remedies


  • Barry, M. (2014) ‘The Loss of Crimea, How Much Does Ukraine Lose, and How Much Does Russia Gain, a Computable General Equilibrium Model’, Journal of Global Peace and Conflict, 2.
  • Burke-White, W. (2014) ‘Crimea and the International Legal Order’, Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 56.
  • Mearsheimer, J. (2014) ‘Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault’, Foreign Affairs, 93.
  • Molchanov, M. (2004) ‘Ukraine and the European Union: a Perennial Neighbour?’, Journal of European Integration, 26.
  • Roskin, M. (2014) ‘The New Cold War’, Parameters, 44.

NOTE: This post is based on Jorge Emilio Núñez, “Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty: International Law and Politics,” London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020 (forthcoming)Previous published research monograph about territorial disputes and sovereignty by the author, Jorge Emilio Núñez, “Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue,” London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017.

NEXT POST: Crimea and a multi-perspective analysis.

Monday 17th February 2020

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @London1701

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