Any settlement that does not return Crimea to Kyiv's control will signal to other belligerent states that military occupation of territories will be tolerated, setting a dangerous precedent for the 21st century.
Luke Coffey, a senior researcher at the Hudson Institute, writes about this in an article for the Wall Street Journal, the Mirror of the Week reports.
He reminds us of the doubts of some officials about who actually owns Crimea: Ukraine or Russia. However, topographically, the peninsula is only a continuation of the Ukrainian steppes. It has no natural land connection with the Russian Federation.
The history of Crimea is also relatively clear. The peninsula has unique political, economic, and cultural ties with the south of Ukraine. And this is a fact that has been recognized by various Russian leaders and other political figures for hundreds of years.
When the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine was reborn as an independent state, the international community, including the Russian Federation, recognized Crimea as part of Ukraine.
Presidential elections were also held in Ukraine on the same day as the referendum. Not only did the pro-independence candidate win, but all six presidential candidates at the time also supported an independent future for the country.
The message to the world was clear: every region of Ukraine, including Crimea, supported independence from the Soviet Union.
"In addition, Russia was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Ukraine, ahead of the USA by more than three weeks," the author reminds.
Political support for independence in Crimea arose from a long history of close political ties between the peninsula and other parts of southern Ukraine. During most of the period between 1443 and 1783, the Crimean Khanate included not only the Crimean Peninsula, but also most of the territory between the Dnipro and Donets in the territory of modern Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and the western part of Donetsk Oblasts.
Even after Empress Catherine II annexed Crimea for the first time in 1783, it was administratively part of the newly created Tavria Governorate, which included other lands that were historically part of the Khanate and today are part of southern Ukraine.
"The political proximity of the peninsula to the south of Ukraine was based on economic and cultural ties, which Crimea did not have with Russia. The simple fact that the peninsula is naturally connected by land to the south of Ukraine, and not to the Russian Federation, means that it did not make economic sense to separate it from Ukrainian territory. This is pretty clear for Moscow," Koffi believes.