Meanings of Crimean geopolitics in regional-global politics

Mehmet Seyfettin Erol
Professor, President
Ankara Center for Crises and Policy Studies (ANKASAM)
Ankara, Turkey

With Russia’s military intervention against Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the status quo in Crimea, which it annexed in violation of international law in 2014, has once again come to the agenda of international public opinion. As much as the geopolitical-strategic importance of Crimea in international-regional power struggles, its symbolic meaning that emerged in the new world order-building processes has begun to be refreshed in historical memories.

First of all, Crimea, with its geopolitical-strategic location, is far beyond connecting the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea, extending over the “Five Seas”, which we can describe as “Caspian-Caucasus-Black Sea-Eastern Europe-Balkans-Anatolia-Mediterranean” and one of the key points of the “Great Basin” that forms the intersection areas of Europe and Asia. Crimea, which has the potential to significantly change the geopolitical balances and has an important place in the transition from regional to international power, therefore has a meaning and importance far beyond being a peninsula and a gateway.

Crimea, which is in a remarkable position due to its advanced science and technology industry, its proximity to rich agricultural regions and its rich natural resources in its territorial waters, has historically been Russia’s descent to the Black Sea and from there to the south; In other words, it has been a part of the strategy of opening to warm seas and thus to the Mediterranean. In this process, Crimea, the Ottoman-Western geopolitical balance against Russian expansionism; In other words, it was also considered as the key to European security. In this context, the Crimean War (1853-1856) is a turning point.

As a matter of fact, the Crimean War began to have a symbolic meaning for Russia and Europe in terms of the European world’s aim to keep Russia out of Europe and the Mediterranean. After the war in question, Russia could not return to European affairs for a long time, and it was seen as an “undesirable” country in Europe. Therefore, in the context of Europe, Crimea has become an address where the “other/enemy” perception towards Russia has become stronger. Moreover, Russia’s “other/hostile” situation has started to show itself not only in the European context, but also in the Slavic World.

Therefore, Crimea is not only a part of or the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine War in its current dimension. Crimea has played a vital role in international political relations throughout history. It is necessary to read this role correctly in military and political terms. Therefore, any interpretation that does not consider the role of Crimea by considering the security of the wider Black Sea geopolitics and even the Eurasian geopolitics will be incomplete and make the issue incapable to understand.

Because Crimea, as it was partly stated above, it is a strong center of gravity stretching from Eastern Europe to the Balkans and from the Caucasus to the Caspian and including a part of Russia. For this reason, it can be stated that Crimea is in a very critical position in terms of security and cooperation processes in the geography stretching from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. In other words, while a stable and secure Crimea opens the door to regional cooperation processes; instability can push the entire region into chaos. For this reason, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 turned from being an issue between Ukraine and Russia to an international issue in which the West is at the center.

This geopolitical role of Crimea in a strategic sense has drawn attention throughout history. As a matter of fact, Crimea has been at the center of historical trade routes, especially the “Silk Road” and “Spice Road”. Today, the security of Crimea draws attention as an important issue that also has transportation and energy security dimensions. The issue in question also causes Crimea to become one of the playgrounds of the global power struggle. In this sense, Crimea is the new address of the power struggle that will determine the actors, ideological structure and content of the international system, especially the name, in the process of building the New World Order. In this sense, Crimea is the new address of the power struggle that will determine the actors, ideological structure and content of the international system, especially the name, in the process of building the New World Order.

In other words, Crimea is one of the main zones of the “New Great Game”. Therefore, the developments in Crimea are not only a war or a power struggle between Russia and Ukraine; It is necessary to evaluate it as a matter of the construction process of the New World Order. In this direction, according to the Kremlin, the road to “Greater Russia” passes through the achievement of the goals in the “Near Abroad Doctrine”, known as the Primakov Doctrine, which envisions Russia to be the dominant power by maintaining its influence in the former Soviet geography. In this aim, it can be said that Crimea has a strategic meaning. Because historically, Russia has reached the position of great power after taking Crimea.

Crimea was the place where Moscow, trying to reassert itself as a great power after the Cold War, drew its red lines to the West and the Western states. The Crimean War of 1853-1856 has great significance because of this. This meaning points to the framework of Turkey-Russia-Western relations and, accordingly, the security of Turkey-West relations. Therefore, the choices made by the parties at the point of Crimea are very decisive for the future of the New World Order in general and the countries of the region in particular. In other words, the situation in Crimea may direct the future of the Black Sea and then the Eurasian geography.

In this context, it is essential for the Black Sea countries to create a vision of the future that takes into account the realities of the 21st century. The vision in question is not only for the welfare, stability and security of the Black Sea region, at the same time, it is of great importance in terms of global peace and security. Because the Crimea-centered Russia-Ukraine Crisis brought the nuclear balance of terror and the 3rd World War scenarios to the agenda for the first time after the Cuban Missile Crisis. In short, the developments over Crimea and the choices made have reached a level that threatens the global security environment. Therefore, the Russian-Ukrainian-centered developments in Crimea come to the fore with the dimension of triggering geopolitical faults in the process leading to the New World Order.

As a result, Crimea, which was accepted as one of the starting addresses of the Cold War, where the bipolar world was shaped at the Yalta Conference/Crimean Conference (4-11 February 1945), appears as the symbolic address of the “New Cold War” or “Cold Peace” in terms of the discourses/targets of the “unipolar-bipolar-multipolar world”. Crimea has once again become the symbol of the iron curtain being drawn between Russia and the Western world. Therefore, Crimea is a tool for Russia to impose the “Yalta Order” once again. In other words, it stands out as a place where Russia’s efforts to transform into an international power center are observed, while the international community reminds it of its limits and limitations, just like in the 19th century.


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