The Future of Crimea
Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) or NATO outpost
19th January 2024
Crimea came to an end in 2014. Today Crimea depends on water from Ukraine (via the North Crimean Canal) and on goods from Russia (via the Kerch Bridge). It is an unsustainable situation. The peninsula will become a demilitarized zone or a NATO outpost.
Crimea is dependent on its hinterland and specifically the area from Kherson to Mariupol. Even in Byzantine times this area was considered crucial for Crimea (οἱ περὶ τὸν Ταῦρον Σκῦθαι [Psellos, Chronographia 5.25.20]).
The war between Russia and Ukraine has shown how attacks can be launched from Crimea towards the port of Odessa. It has also shown how Crimea is in reach of Ukraine’s missiles and drones. Once the conflict is over, no one will wish to have the possibility of an attack to or from Crimea. Given that the peninsula has been a sought after but easy object of conquest, the preferable solution is complete demilitarization.
The other possibility is that Crimea becomes a NATO outpost. This would occur if Mariupol became Ukrainian once again, as it had been until early 2022. If Ukraine regained access to the Sea of Azov, that would signify a complete defeat of Russia and therefore Crimea would be part of Ukraine once more, and NATO could request it as a special base, given the decisive contribution of the alliance in the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Both scenarios imply that 2014 was the last year in which Crimea was simply a region of a country. Far from the capital but appreciated as a cultural, gastronomic, and holiday spot.
Crimea, either as a demilitarized zone or NATO outpost, will alter the Black Sea beyond recognition. It will be simply a NATO lake like the Baltic Sea. It will place Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan within reach of the alliance and will reduce the strategic importance of Turkey.
If the Black Sea becomes a NATO lake, the Indian commercial corridor will access the EU market, via Iran’s port of Chabahar, Armenia and Georgia. This could reduce the dependency on the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. It may be beneficial for China as well which would appreciate the stability of the Caucasus and the trans-Siberian route towards Europe.
The richness of Crimea’s history and monuments reveals it has always been a crossroads of multiple interests and cultures: Ancient Greeks, Romans, Goths, Byzantines, Armenians, Jews, Kazars, Genoese, Venetians, Mongols, Tatars, Russians, and Ukranians.
A demilitarized or NATO Crimea may be a plan which suits USA, China and India according to their view to divide the world into three spheres of influence and to allow a free flow of commercial routes unencumbered by local disputes and wars.
The future of Crimea depends on the new Tripolar World.