Crimea parliament to declare independence after annexation referendum

posted at 8:41 am on March 11, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Could this move by the Crimean parliament start a war between Ukraine and Russia, and perhaps involve Europe and Turkey? Or could it be a possible way out of an impasse that allows all sides to walk back from their positions? The legislators of the breakaway province voted to pursue independence if a scheduled referendum on Russian annexation passes as expected this week:

The Crimean parliament voted Tuesday that the Black Sea peninsula will declare itself an independent state if its residents agree to split off from Ukraine and join Russia in a referendum.

Crimea’s regional legislature on Tuesday adopted a “declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.” The document specified that Crimea will become an independent state if its residents vote on Sunday in favor of joining Russia in the referendum.

Western nations have said they will not recognize the vote as legitimate. But the move might be used as an attempt to ease tensions with Crimea existing as a self-proclaimed state without Russia moving quickly to incorporate it into its territory.

There is one potential wrinkle in this plan. When Turkey (then the Ottoman Empire) ceded sovereignty of the Crimean peninsula to Russia in the late 18th century, the treaty explicitly stated that Crimea would revert back to Ottoman control if it attempted to become an independent state:

In an article in last week’s Russian Pravda, it was noted that if Ukraine was divided, then the status of the Crimean Peninsula – returned to Ukraine in 1954 by Nikita Kruschev, would be open to discussion, and that would include Turkey having a say in the future of Crimea.

The reference to this claim is the “Küçük Kaynarca” (Karlowitz I) signed 230 years ago. As per this agreement, signed by the Russian Tsarina Catherine II on April 19, 1783, the Crimean Peninsula was taken away from the dominion of the Ottomans and handed over to Russia. However, one of the most important provisions of this treaty was the debarment of independence for the Peninsula and outlawing its submission to a third party: Should any such attempt be made, then Crimea would automatically have to be returned to the sovereignty of Turkey.

When Ukraine appeared as an independent nation following the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, Turkey acquired the right to claim the Peninsula back based on the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca; however, this was not brought up by the Turgut Ozal administration of the time. Turkey was content with advocating for the rights of the Tatar minority living on the Crimean Peninsula.

Don’t bet that Turkey will intercede to enforce this treaty, which will be 231 years old next month.  The Turks might be interested enough in the Tatar minority to force its way into negotiations using this as a lever. They’re not going to go to war with Russia to take back the peninsula, though. It still means that a declaration of independence might not be the easy solution to the Gordian knot developing on Crimea.

The US wants to get another nation involved, too — China, which has been rather quiet about all of these developments on the other side of the continent:

The Obama administration is stepping up its attempts to court China’s support for isolating Russia over its military intervention in Ukraine.

With official comments from China appearing studiously neutral since the Ukraine crisis began, President Barack Obama spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping late Sunday in a bid to get Beijing off the fence.

The call was their first known conversation since Russian forces took control of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow Crimea region. It came amid signals that Russian President Vladimir Putin was hardening his position on Crimea, which is due to vote on joining Russia in a referendum this weekend that the U.S. and its allies have vowed not to recognize.

In making his case, Obama appealed to China’s well-known and vehement opposition to outside intervention in other nations’ domestic affairs, according to a White House statement.

However, it remained unclear whether China would side with the U.S. and Europe or with Moscow, which has accused the West of sparking the crisis in Ukraine with inappropriate “meddling” in the internal affairs of the former Soviet republic. China is a frequent ally of Russia in the U.N. Security Council, where both wield veto power.

Bloomberg’s editors agree, but also note why China might view the situation as an opportunity rather than a problem:

In other matters affecting international stability, China hasacknowledged its responsibility to get involved. It has, for instance, agreed to chase pirates off the coast of Somalia even if they flee into territorial waters, and it has chosen not to obstruct some international sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Implicitly tolerating Putin’s adventurism now only reinforces fears about China’s behavior — especially among its neighbors, who already suspect that it aims to annex several islands and atolls across the East and South China Seas.

China ultimately shares the same goals in Ukraine as the rest of the world: to affirm the sanctity of international borders, avoid bloodshed and restore stability to global markets as quickly as possible. All would be accomplished much faster and more durably if China spoke out now against Putin’s aggression.

This sounds suspiciously to me like John Kerry’s impotent retort about “19th-century” thinking. Who says those are China’s goals?  China wants to expand its empire at the expense of its neighbors, as its provocations against Japan has proven over the last couple of years. They may see Putin as a pioneer, a man who tests the West so that China can know just how far Obama and the EU can be pushed without getting a significant reaction. If those were China’s goals, Beijing’s leaders wouldn’t need Barack Obama to explain it to them, and they wouldn’t have to be pressured into more significant action in this crisis.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Are there any ethnic Turks living in Crimea? Cuz having ethnic Russians living there now seems to make this quiet invasion OK according to the new and improved dictator.

Kissmygrits on March 11, 2014 at 8:49 AM

China ultimately shares the same goals in Ukraine as the rest of the world: to affirm the sanctity of international borders, avoid bloodshed and restore stability to global markets as quickly as possible. All would be accomplished much faster and more durably if China spoke out now against Putin’s aggression.

You’re absolutely sure about that? No chance that you might be engaging in a bit of projection? No mirror-imaging going on? No possibility that the Chinese might see the world through something other than the liberal internationalist prism?

dreadnought62 on March 11, 2014 at 8:52 AM

I’d advocate for Turkey to make their claim. That would ultimately get NATO involved.

And beyond the moral obligation the US has to Ukraine (conveniently ignored by the Paulbots in their isolationist stupidity) the fact of the matter is this……

IS THE WEST GOING TO ALLOW PUTIN TO GET THE BAND BACK TOGETHER WITHOUT DOING ANYTHING BUT WRITING STRONGLY WORDED LETTERS?

Happy Nomad on March 11, 2014 at 8:52 AM

Or could it be a possible way out of an impasse that allows all sides to walk back from their positions?

No worries, Obama has already walked far away and is heading for another round of golf.

Gatsu on March 11, 2014 at 8:52 AM

No worries, Obama has already walked far away and is heading for another round of golf.

Gatsu on March 11, 2014 at 8:52 AM

Well he doesn’t want to be seen as bossy. He’s very happy to have the Paulbots bleating about not being the world’s policeman because it gives him much needed cover. The reality is that the filthy bastard doesn’t have a clue what to do about any of the foreign policy messes he created along with Clinton and Kerry.

Happy Nomad on March 11, 2014 at 8:56 AM

Funnily, the reason why China might not go along with Kerry is that they may one day wish to grab off a hunk of Siberia…

tigerinexile on March 11, 2014 at 9:02 AM

The US tries to ‘woo” China on the Ukraine?

C’mon Ed. That was so wong.

HugoDrax on March 11, 2014 at 9:03 AM

I’d just rather have Russia buy Crimea from Ukraine. Russia cannot give up its one warm water port so just make it a real estate purchase.

Otherwise have US carrier task force park in the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. A warm water port doesn’t mean much if you can’t get out of the bathtub.

If Putin wants to ignore treaties, we can as well (a treaty guarantees Russian egress from the Black Sea.)

rbj on March 11, 2014 at 9:03 AM

China can’t say anything, either way, because it will want to make its own moves during the coming trouble in Crimea.

OldEnglish on March 11, 2014 at 9:04 AM

The US tries to ‘woo” China on the Ukraine?

C’mon Ed. That was so wong.

HugoDrax on March 11, 2014 at 9:03 AM

LOL! Honestly, I never thought about that until I saw your comment.

Ed Morrissey on March 11, 2014 at 9:05 AM

Funnily, the reason why China might not go along with Kerry is that they may one day wish to grab off a hunk of Siberia…

tigerinexile on March 11, 2014 at 9:02 AM

Oh! I think they’ll just use the same rationale and go in and take back “Formosa.” It isn’t like the filthy rat-eared coward is going to do anything but whine.

Happy Nomad on March 11, 2014 at 9:07 AM

Heh. Putin is just getting started. He will re-establish much if not all the former Soviet Union’s hegemony for Russia before 2016. The US under Obama doesn’t exist as an opposing force in any of his calculations anymore, and he’s right. Putin can do anything he wants and all he’ll get is meaningless bloviation from Kerry and Obama – they’re just rodeo clowns to him.

With US influence evaporating around the globe now, all the bad actors have free reign to do what they want, and they will. Nothing to fear from the US anymore under Obama and his minions, who are all too busy looting the wealth of this nation for themselves, to give a crap about Crimea, Ukraine, or anyone else.

Harbingeing on March 11, 2014 at 9:09 AM

Is an agreement entered into between govts that no longer exist valid? Neither Czarist Russia nor the Ottoman Empire are active players on the world stage, at least not that I’ve noticed.

Akzed on March 11, 2014 at 9:09 AM

The US tries to ‘woo” China on the Ukraine? C’mon Ed. That was so wong. HugoDrax on March 11, 2014 at 9:03 AM

“The pilot of the doomed airliner, Capt. Wee Too Low…”

Akzed on March 11, 2014 at 9:10 AM

Akzed on March 11, 2014 at 9:09 AM

Not too sure about Turkey, but Putin is working on his revival of empire.

OldEnglish on March 11, 2014 at 9:12 AM

I wonder what would happen if future Chinese leaders demand our Presidents bow like Obama did.. or else.

JellyToast on March 11, 2014 at 9:12 AM

It appears that Moscow and Beijing are unconcerned by the rhetoric coming out of Washington. They know we are tired of our military being the policemen of the world and our leaders have no spine or principles. Our politicians just want to win their next election for their own vanity or something.

Deano1952 on March 11, 2014 at 9:12 AM

There is one potential wrinkle in this plan. When Turkey (then the Ottoman Empire) ceded sovereignty of the Crimean peninsula to Russia in the late 18th century, the treaty explicitly stated that Crimea would revert back to Ottoman control if it attempted to become an independent state:

Lol. Turkey does not equal the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire no longer exists. What would we have, and ‘Ottoman Empire’ consisting of nothing but Crimea? Silly stuff.

I would, however, like to see Turkey ‘reverted’ back to Constantinople.

WhatSlushfund on March 11, 2014 at 9:24 AM

What a servile dolt.

avagreen on March 11, 2014 at 9:40 AM

They may see Putin as a pioneer, a man who tests the West so that China can know just how far Obama and the EU can be pushed without getting a significant reaction.

This is pretty much exactly right. Honestly, if Obama is “wooing” the Chinese, the only significant pieces he has to give away is a promise of noninterference when the Chinese inevitably attack Japan for the Senkaku Islands and/or when the Chinese attack the Philippines over the Spratly Islands.

And what is he going to do it for? A few empty words for a few days in support of Ukrainian independence from some Chinese foreign official.

We are seeing the entire post WW2 system unravelling right before our very eyes.

Doomberg on March 11, 2014 at 10:05 AM

…bow and scrape!

KOOLAID2 on March 11, 2014 at 10:08 AM

turkey will make this an issue to gain some concessions. no idea what but they will.

We are seeing the entire post WW2 system unravelling right before our very eyes.

Doomberg on March 11, 2014 at 10:05 AM

yes.
I’ll admit I am pretty worried about a flashover occurring in next year or so and drawing nato into a war.
no proof, just a feeling, and I hope I am wrong.

dmacleo on March 11, 2014 at 10:30 AM

I’ll admit I am pretty worried about a flashover occurring in next year or so and drawing nato into a war.
no proof, just a feeling, and I hope I am wrong.

dmacleo on March 11, 2014 at 10:30 AM

I am actually more worried about a NATO member (the Baltics) being attacked and NATO refusing to take action. That would almost be worse.

Doomberg on March 11, 2014 at 10:50 AM

“Referendum on Russian annexation”?

Don’t you mean the Anschluss?

Socratease on March 11, 2014 at 11:59 AM

Another KOW TAO to another country showing continued progress towards total capitulation of our way of life as being second to everyone else.

MSGTAS on March 11, 2014 at 12:16 PM

‘Woo China’? Did Obama not see the picture last week of Putin shaking this guy’s hand as they joined a pact together?! What in the heck would convince China’s leader that Obama would make a stronger partner / ally than Putin?…Bwaaahaaaa! That’s funny.

1st Thing I would suggest is stride into the room, walk right up to the leader with confidence, and look him straight in the eye with your hand extended like you’ve got a pair rather than ‘humbly, meekly’ bowing to every nation’s leader you meet. Notice how no other leader BOWS TO OBAMA? It’s always him lowering himself before them. What a wus – sends the immediate message that ‘we are weak’.

If you walked up to me and bowed with your hand out I would slip you my car keys + $5, tell you to park the car, and ask you where the President is at the moment. Bowing = SUB-Serviant, WEAK, WUSS — NOT the powerful Leader of the greatest nation in the free world!

easyt65 on March 11, 2014 at 12:41 PM