Five years after Russian forces took Crimea from Ukraine, the international community is still struggling with how to respond to a major power seizing another country’s territory for the first time since World War II and the founding of the United Nations, a senior State Department official said.
On the five-year anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Amb. Taylor—a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine—explains why it has been so difficult for Ukraine and its allies to oust Russia from the Ukrainian territory. “Sadly … the people of Crimea are worse off than they were five years ago,” while the West continues to struggle with how to respond to Moscow’s territorial grab.
Ukraine’s 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections will take place against a tense backdrop of Russian aggression, ongoing conflict in the Donbas region, and a momentous split in the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches. This Special Report, based on an assessment conducted by USIP in late 2018, identifies...
Five years ago, Russia rolled into Crimea, orchestrated a swift and one-sided referendum, and annexed the Ukrainian territory. The West was blindsided by the attack and slow to provide any response. As a result, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a second invasion of Ukrainian soil—this one in the country’s east. This attack met stronger resistance, and eventually the West swung into gear to push for a cease-fire and to impose sanctions on Russia. Yet the conflict rumbles on and has killed over 10,300 Ukrainians so far.
Ukraine is facing a busy election season in 2019, with presidential elections on March 31 and parliamentary elections scheduled for October, amid a challenging security context. Many Ukrainians expect turbulent and “dirty” elections with increased tension during the campaign periods, and between Election Day and the likely presidential run-off.
Russia failed to anticipate that its invasion of Ukraine in 2014 would cost it one of its most powerful levers of influence over its neighbor: the formal authority of the Russian Orthodox Church over its Ukrainian counterpart. But it has done so, and that unintended consequence could lead to others: a decline in Russian influence within the Eastern Orthodox world, a deeper division in the Orthodox community—and even perhaps the largest schism in Christianity since 1054. The international community has a key role in determining how this unfolds and must act to ensure the worst scenarios don’t come to pass.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that President Vladimir Putin knew what was going on and had given the general guidance,” says William B. Taylor, regarding Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian ships in a vital maritime trade route for Ukraine. The United States and Europe must jointly apply additional economic sanctions and provide military assistance to Ukraine to pressure Russia to cease its aggressive actions.
“In its fifth year, Russia's armed aggression in Ukraine's Donbas region has become a costly burden with little strategic benefit,” says Charles North. One possible exit ramp has emerged from recent negotiations: a U.N.-mandated peacekeeping operation to facilitate a peace process resulting in Russia’s departure from Donbas and the return of control to Ukraine.
Jonas Claes provides risk analysis for elections taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo in December and in Ukraine in March, 2019. A combination of complicating factors ranging from ongoing conflicts, outside meddling, logistical hurdles and voter apathy top Claes’ concerns that election violence could be stoked in both elections.
Ahead of the highly anticipated Trump-Putin meeting and the NATO summit in Europe later this month, Ambassador Taylor discusses the key issues that will be on the agenda at both, including Russian meddling in U.S. elections and Moscow’s aggressive actions in Europe as well as NATO members’ progress as it relates to U.S. concerns over burden-sharing.